Dallas has had problems with penalties for some time now and seem unable to deal with them. Is this due to coaching or poor play by the players? Can anything be done? – Jim Whatley/Henderson, TX
Nick: I'll agree that penalties are an issue. I'll disagree that they're unable to deal with them. I guess that comes down to the definition of "dealing with it." This has been a good football team that wins games, oftentimes despite the penalties. Of course, when they lose it's always easy to say penalties or turnovers, or both. But you're right, they are a highly-penalize team. You can point to several factors, such as playing overly aggressive. This is a team that gets a lot of sacks and pretty decent at turnovers, too. When you play that way, you're going to go too far at times and commit penalties. They also have some young players that are still learning the game, too. But sometimes they just don't make smart plays. I really hate to put that on coaching all the time because it's definitely something they address. But overall, they definitely get a lot of flags and they're never going to get the benefit of a lot of favorable calls for them. I don't really see it changing that much, unfortunately.
Kurt: Yes, many of the flags being thrown are questionable, some even downright wrong, but those kinds of mistakes by the officials are something every team faces. There's still really no excuse for the Cowboys averaging 7.1 penalties per game, the fifth-highest total in the league. And this after leading the NFL with a 7.8 average last season. Three times they've had at least nine penalties in a game this year, and guess what? All three were losses, including this past Sunday at Green Bay. Perhaps even more frustrating is that of the 64 penalties Dallas has been flagged for, 25 came pre-snap. Meaning, you could make the case that 39 percent of the penalties are simply mental. Hard to blame the coaches for that. Penalties have been a major issue in the Mike McCarthy era, but he and his staff can harp on the issue and preach discipline only so much. When it comes right down to it, the only ones who can fix the problem are the players themselves.