Eat your heart out, NFL.

The Patriots suffered a crushing overtime loss to the Broncos on Sunday night in Denver, but that doesn’t mean New England no longer is the measuring stick for all NFL franchises. In fact, former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, now an analyst for NBC Sports, sees at least one disadvantage to being a model of excellence and consistency.

“I just think the Patriots do get penalized for being so good,” Harrison said Tuesday on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni and Fauria” while discussing Sunday’s AFC showdown. “I wouldn’t say it’s a conspiracy against them. I’ve seen a lot of different things. The Patriots are a really good team and, yes, are people around the league jealous of the Patriots and envy the Patriots? No doubt about it.

“Heck, I don’t even play anymore, and when I go through the airport, I hear people yelling and screaming, celebrating if we lose or celebrating if a guy gets hurt. It’s definitely Patriot Nation against the world. But that is how it is when you have success.”

Harrison often is considered a Patriots homer. He spent six seasons with the organization and isn’t shy about defending his former team even when others go against it. But it doesn’t sound like Harrison was trying to stir the pot with his comment about the Patriots being penalized, as he also suggested Tuesday that officiating has become a leaguewide issue.

“I get a chance to sit back and watch all the games all at once, and it’s not just the New England Patriots,” Harrison said. “I don’t care if you’re the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Arizona Cardinals — everyone is complaining about the officials. I just think the officials, they are under so much pressure and scrutiny because everything that they do or they don’t do is being reviewed. These guys are just scared to make calls. Sometimes they are overly aggressive when they make their calls.”

Making officials full-time employees is one possible solution to the NFL’s referee crisis, and it’s an idea that Harrison supports. The two-time Super Bowl champion also wonders whether the NFL should bring in younger officials rather than rely on aging veterans, even if mental toughness is paramount at the end of the day.

“It’s just what it is, man. It’s human error,” Harrison said. “These officials are scared to death because they know everything that they do, whether it is how they communicate, the way they walk, the way they talk, everything is being scrutinized. And now these guys are nervous. They’ve gotten to a point where they can’t even call games because they are so nervous.”

Many pundits — Tedy Bruschi, Boomer Esiason and Skip Bayless, to name a few — have gone a step further and ripped the officials following the Patriots’ Week 12 loss to the Broncos, as there were some controversial calls that went against New England. There might not be a conspiracy against the Patriots, but no team captures everyone’s attention quite like Bill Belichick’s bunch.

For better or worse.

Click for Harrison’s full WEEI interview >>

Thumbnail photo via Peter Casey/USA TODAY Sports Images