Going into any game week, there always seems to be one statistical bugaboo that the Buffalo Bills need to focus on in their never-ending quest to play better, more consistent football. Whether it be third down percentage, red zone percentage, or the number of touches being given to running back C.J. Spiller, these types of stats are always pointed at after a loss, or referred to in discussions about fine-tuning success after a win.
Coming off of two strong performances - a 37-31 loss to the New England Patriots and a 19-14 win over the Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football - there's little debate that the Bills have no bigger area to work on than committing penalties. In those two games, the Bills were penalized an absurd 25 times for 248 yards.
As a point of reference: the NFL's least-penalized team, the 9-1 Atlanta Falcons, have been flagged 37 times. In 10 games. The Bills were penalized just 45 times in total in their first eight games; their recent boom on that front has put them up to 70 flags on the season, good for the sixth-highest total in the league.
In that loss to New England, the Bills were flagged 14 times for 148 yards, and then followed that up last Thursday with an 11-penalty, 100-yard performance that included two false starts (Chris Hairston and Kraig Urbik were the offenders) on offense and four pre-snap movement penalties on Bills defensive linemen - one each from Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Shawne Merriman. This game took place at Ralph Wilson Stadium, mind you.
It's worth pointing out that Buffalo's opponents have done their part to offset the Bills' sudden philanthropic thrust on the penalty front; New England and Miami combined for 142 yards on 13 penalties in those contests. It's also worth pointing out, however, that just one of the Bills' remaining six opponents - the St. Louis Rams, who are the third-most penalized team in the league - are as bad or worse than Buffalo in this department. Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Seattle, Miami and New York are all part of a group of teams that have committed between 57 and 64 penalties this season.
Sitting at 4-6 with several key losses already in hand, the Bills have enough on their plates trying to beat enough teams and stack up enough wins to qualify for the post-season after digging themselves an early hole. It would help their efforts tremendously if they stopped chipping away at said hole during games with gobs of penalties.