The New Orleans Saints have had a little trouble with an obscure penalty this season.
New Orleans has been flagged five times for defensive holding on a defensive lineman, including two on Sunday against the Buccaneers.
Holding penalties aren't out of the ordinary. New Orleans has been flagged for offensive holding 27 times this season, penalties drawn while blocking, and the Saints' secondary has been flagged 16 times for holding in coverage.
But holding on defensive linemen is far more rare. New Orleans has drawn the penalty five times season; opponents have been flagged just once.
"Often-times as you are trying to get up on a double team. ... at times the defensive lineman will tug a jersey or try to prevent that from happening," Saints coach Sean Payton said."When they removed the umpire and put him behind the offense, it became harder to enforce that. I do think, though, in the last year and a half, there’s been an emphasis from behind to catch that, the official deep in the secondary to be able to catch it. ... It's something we will have to work on."
The flag is rare partly because part of a defensive lineman's job description is to disrupt blocks.
The key is to avoid spinning around an offensive lineman who is trying to get to the second level and block another defender.
"It’s one of those perception calls," defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. "A few were definitely holding calls. We just can’t allow those to hold us back on defense."
Ryan Nielsen is in his first season as the Saints' defensive line coach, but nose tackle Tyeler Davison, who has been flagged for the penalty twice this season, said it's not a technique Nielsen is teaching.
There's a lot of grabbing and pulling in the trenches. Some of it comes down to who gets caught.
"Offensive holding is grossly under-called; it's disgusting sometimes," Davison said. "They could call it multiple times on every play; they could crack down on it, but they don't. ... and then the defensive line has a little-bitty hold -- I guess you can call it a hold, we're in there fighting a double team, and they call us for holding. ... Sometimes it's real puzzling to me."