The Vikings’ 38 penalties this season are the 10th fewest among teams that have played five games.
Tennessee leads those teams with 29, followed by New England and Washington at 31 apiece. The Bears (26) and Panthers (29) have fewer in one fewer game.
Penalties, of course, are drive-killing pains in the backside. But they don’t always correlate to wins and losses. Some of us learned this watching the Oakland Raiders terrorize the ’70s.
This year, the undefeated Chiefs have 52 penalties. Then again, the equally undefeated Rams have 32.
The Steelers are the most penalized team with 59. The Packers weigh in at No. 3 with 50. The Lions have 42.
Among Vikings players, cornerback Xavier Rhodes is in a familiar spot atop the penalty leaderboard with four. Since his rookie year in 2013, Rhodes has finished first in penalties every season. He did share the top spot with former left tackle Matt Kalil in 2014.
It’s no surprise that a shutdown corner would be a team’s most penalized player. In terms of trying to avoid penalties, left tackle might be the only position that comes even close to the level of difficulty Rhodes faces as he shadows the opponent’s No. 1 receiver for 60 minutes (or more) each week. Especially in today’s NFL, which seems quite determined to mimic the Big 12 in terms of offense and lack of defense.
Over the years, Rhodes has become a Pro Bowler and, last year, a first-team All-Pro. He’s done it while frustrating the likes of Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones and Antonio Bryant.
He also has drawn 54 penalties in 80 games, which helps explain why his most recent penalty came when he kicked the official’s flag in frustration over his second holding call in the Rams game two weeks ago.
Among Vikings players since 2013, defensive end Everson Griffen is second with 34 penalties in 80 games. Kalil, who hasn’t played for the Vikings since Week 2 of the 2016 season, is third with 28 in 50 games.
In his career, Rhodes has 24 holding penalties and 17 pass interference penalties. But, overall, his penalty totals have fallen from 12 in 2015 to 11 in 2016 to nine a year ago.
He has four in five games this year. But last year he had four in three games before finishing with only five in the final 13 regular season games.