CLEVELAND - The way Eagles center Jason Kelce figures it, the identity of the referees does not matter because the process is the same. Every week, the refs' job is to call penalties and the offensive line's job is to adjust to whatever standard is being set that day.
And so, on an afternoon when the Eagles were penalized 12 times for 110 yards by referees working in place of locked-out union members - a day when four of the five offensive linemen were called for holding (all but right tackle Todd Herremans) - there really wasn't much to say.
"Every game, you have a set of officials - and you play the game they call," Kelce said, after the Eagles' 17-16 win over the Browns, who were penalized just three times for 35 yards. "So if they're making it really known that they're going to be calling holding calls, you don't hold. I've never been one to pick on the officials and say they're making bad calls because really, at the end of the day, you play the game that they call . . .
"Some of them were just blatant penalties. A few of them could be called or could not be called, either way - but if they are being called, you can't do it . . . If they're hounding on holding, if they're hounding on personal fouls, don't give them a reason to throw the flag at all."
Several long runs by LeSean McCoy were called back by penalties, and the flags led to an offense that was severely out of kilter. Asked why the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter worked out, Eagles coach Andy Reid said it was the absence of penalties, finally.
"We eliminated the mistakes, really," he said. "When you have penalties on a drive, the chances of you maintaining that drive as a scoring drive are slim. You accumulate this many penalties, it's tough to win football games - so we eliminated the mistakes."
The Eagles have been a highly penalized team for several years. They actually improved last season, dropping down to 11th in the NFL, but they have not been below the league average in penalties since 2008. This year, they start with a dozen.