THE EAGLES were called for five penalties on Sunday. Two were called on Dennis Kelly immediately upon entering the game, playing in an unfamiliar position. Another, on Riley Cooper chasing a punt return out of bounds, seemed ticky-tac. But then again, this was Ed Hochuli's officiating crew out there, the NFL version of a rain delay.
Hochuli's crew is famous, or infamous, for numerous penalties, long pauses deciding what precisely to call, and mic'd-up explanations of those calls that take just slightly less time than the closing arguments in a trial.
Ed is a trial lawyer by weekday, if you couldn't guess, specializing in professional liability defense. It seems like a perfect marriage, this Sunday gig he has been performing for the last 26 years.
And perform he does. Hochuli is an extremely familiar face in American households, averaging around 15 explanations a week. That was his total for the Falcons-Bucs game in Week 13, the Bears-Packers game on that awful-and long-Thanksgiving night game in Week 12, and pretty close to his total of 13 in Week 11 between the 49ers and Seahawks.
Think of Leslie Neilsen calling balls and strikes in that "Naked Gun" movie. That's Ed. If you get called for jury duty and Hochuli is one of the attorneys, you best find the sickest person you can and have him or her cough in your face.
Or bring along a backpack full of candy bars. 'Cause you're likely to be there for a while.
Which makes the Eagles' effort even that much more impressive in Sunday's 23-20 victory over the Buffalo Bills. If not for the back-to-back holding calls on the understandably overwhelmed Kelly when he filled in for Jason Peters in the second quarter, and that dubious unnecessary-roughness call on Cooper after a third-quarter Eagles punt, Ed couldn't find much fault with a team that had been flagged 111 times (83 accepted) in its previous 13 games, an average of nearly nine a game.
In fact, the last time Hochuli did an Eagles game, in their Week 9 overtime victory over Dallas, there were 18 penalties called, 10 against Philadelphia.
Hochuli wasn't off his game Sunday. He hit his average with 15 penalties called - on the Bills alone, inducing a Buffalo assistant coach to call it "a disgrace to the NFL" as he exited through the visitors' tunnel at Lincoln Financial Field.
"I thought we were the better team today, but obviously we got beat," Bills coach Rex Ryan said. "Penalties - we've got ourselves to blame. You can't have that many penalties, obviously, and it's a no-brainer when you jump offside a zillion times and we got I don't know how many holding calls, but it looked like it was a record out there.''
"For us to be successful, we can't be stopping ourselves,'' Eagles coach Chip Kelly said Monday. "You're not going to be successful when you have that many penalties. We talk about it all the time. We emphasize it when we're watching film and tape. Why does a penalty occur? A lot of times with a holding penalty, it's because you stop your feet. But the ones we really try to control, the presnap penalties, I thought we've done a better job of that.''
They did on Sunday, anyway. Not so much the Sunday before, when they were flagged eight times for 97 yards against the Patriots. Much of their struggles this season have traced to an oft-banged-up offensive line and a uneasy quarterback situation. Whether it was Sam Bradford reacclimating himself to the pace of the NFL or Mark Sanchez struggling as his replacement, the Eagles' activity at the line of scrimmage has been a painful thing to watch at times, their self-inflicted wounds acting like a box of tacks to their offense.
Kelly said Bradford's snap count and cadence drew the penalty-plagued Bills offside four times. That's something Bradford could never have pulled off in September and October, as he tried to get his arm around Kelly's system, his new teammates, and the speed of the NFL in general.
The offense was still not a well-oiled machine Sunday, or in the Eagles' bare-knuckles win over the Patriots. The Eagles are still a team that lives and dies by its defensive front and the turnovers its pressure creates, and it was thus on Sunday. There were seven penalties called against Buffalo's offensive line, which had a bear of a time containing the Eagles' defensive front, particularly Fletcher Cox.
But their own low penalty number at least offers a hint of hope that the offense will take a bigger bite over the critical three games that end this season, especially with Bradford's comfort level continually improving.
The other bit of hope is that they are not likely to see Hochuli and his crew again, at least until the postseason.
Then again, after how it all went down on Sunday, they might be happy to wait out an afternoon of explanations.
On Twitter: @samdonnellon