Atlanta Falcons set NFL mark for fewest penalties


Dec 22, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith reacts to play against the Detroit Lions during 2nd half of a game at Ford Field. Falcon won 31-18. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

In a world where lighting up the scoreboard is popular, and big plays are the only defensive plays that are made, not getting penalized can be an underrated thing. But for the 2012 Atlanta Falcons, it was crucial for this team’s success.

In the 2012 regular season, the Atlanta Falcons were only penalized 55 times, for a total of 415 yards. Those are both all-time NFL records. Only the 2008 New England Patriots had fewer accepted penalties (57), and only the 2007 Seattle Seahawks had fewer penalty yards (428).

It’s clearly an understated thing to not give up many penalties. But it’s clear not giving away free yardage is a critical thing. Not killing drives with stupid penalties, or any penalties, is a huge thing. Not giving away first downs and extending the drives for other teams is just as important. It’s clear that the Falcons get that, and are doing a good job of keeping penalties down.

This clearly is coming from the leadership of the head coach, and is spreading throughout the entire team. Under Mike Smith, the Falcons have been very good at not giving up many penalties. The biggest clue that it comes from Smith? The 2010 Atlanta Falcons only gave up 58 penalties. That’s the third best mark in NFL history. Smith has gotten this team to play very disciplined.

Every time the Falcons do commit the penalty, watch the camera pan to Mike Smith. He is making notations in his notepad about who was penalized and for what. Also look at Smith’s face. He is as red in the face as he could be, you could imagine he is about to have aneurysm. Penalties tick him off, and it ticks the Falcons off as a whole.