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Patriots sought to minimize penalties vs. Vikings; it didn’t work

Penalty flags (right) were flying Sunday.
Penalty flags (right) were flying Sunday.(steve senne/AP)

The Patriots are still near the bottom (top?) of the league in number of penalties committed, but they’ve been a little handsy over the last two weeks.

They focused on eliminating penalties after a season-high 11 accepted flags for 105 yards against the Jets, but they didn’t fix the issue against the Vikings, at least on offense. New England had seven penalties accepted for 60 yards, with six of the flags coming on offense.

“We’re going backwards too many plays, so this is two weeks in a row we just have too many penalties,” Bill Belichick said after the game. “We’ve got to eliminate that. That’s obvious.”

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The defense played a clean game. There was one costly special teams penalty by Brandon King that wiped out a good punt return by Julian Edelman. Mostly, the issues were on offense. Rob Gronkowski, in particular, accounted for three penalties all by himself with a false start and two holding calls.

The Patriots might have gotten a better result on the third-quarter drive that ended in a missed 48-yard field goal attempt by Stephen Gostkowski had they been more disciplined. Tom Brady was moving the ball well, but the drive stalled because of three penalties.

Overall the Patriots have still been more disciplined than their opponents. They have 65 accepted penalties this season for 529 yards, while their opponents have committed 73 for 658. Only the Saints and Titans have had fewer penalties accepted overall. That won’t stay the case if the Patriots keep drawing flags the way they have the last two weeks.

Officiating obviously has something to do with the results in this area. Shawn Hochuli’s crew, which did the Jets game, is one of the most flag-happy officiating crews in the league, with an average of 17.9 penalties called per game. Craig Wrolstad’s crew, which did the Vikings game, is right in the middle with 13.2.

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Pete Morelli’s crew will be officiating Sunday’s game in Miami. Morelli is basically down the middle when it comes to flags thrown, with an average of 14.3 per game for 123 yards. The league average is 13.3 penalties per game (for both teams) for 114 yards.


Nora Princiotti can be reached at nora.princiotti@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @NoraPrinciotti.