Games that result in 41-13 blowouts usually have several reasons for the disparity in scoring. Oftentimes, games that are that lopsided are a result of turnovers, and last Sunday wasn't any different. With Sage throwing four interceptions (three in the second half), the Texans were unable to stay competitive.
As detrimental as the turnovers were, there was another key component to the Texans demise: penalties. Sunday, the Texans were flagged ten (10) times for a total of 76 yards, by far the most this season. Through the first eight contests, the Texans were averaging only 3.5 penalties a game, nearly a third less than their total last Sunday.
Being that the Texans are one of the least penalized teams in the league, it became obvious that something else was at play. If the Texans were playing away from home, in front of a hostile crowd, I could understand the sharp spike in called penalties, but seeing as how the game was at Reliant, there must have been something else at play.
So were the Texans' inflated penalty numbers a result of mental miscues or over officiating? After scratching my head for a second, I went on a fact-finding mission. And what I found all but confirmed my hunch.
Referee Jerome Boger has been an NFL official since the 2004 season, assuming head referee duties two years later in 2006. While he isn't as well known as Referees Mike Carey or Ed Hoculi, his crew has shown a propensity for affecting the outcome of games.
Last Sunday was the second Texans game that Boger and his crew have officiated this season. The first one came during the blowout loss in Tennessee. Penalty-wise, that game was one of the cleanest games the Texans have played this season (2 for 10 yards); however it was only the second game the crew called during the season. Their first game was San Francisco at Seattle. In that game, the Boger crew called a whopping 19 penalties for a total of 135 yards.
Through the midway point in this season, Boger and his crew have called a total of 153 infractions, averaging exactly 17 penalties a game, which just happened to be the total number of penalties called in the Texans-Ravens game. Excluding Boger's crew, the rest of the NFL officiating crews are averaging 99.7 penalties called over nine games or just over 11 penalties a game.
The officiating crew with the next highest penalty total is led by Ron Winter (135 over nine games). Numbers don't lie: Winter and his crew also called the Texans/Cincinnati game in which the Texans had their second highest penalty total of the season (7).
So while some are quick to point to the number of penalties as a sign of a team on the verge of implosion, it should be noted that the overall number of penalties called by Jerome Boger and his crew was par for the course. I have confidence that the Texans will return to playing a cleaner brand of football - so long as Boger and his crew aren't calling the game.