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Penalty Recap: rough day for the Bills in Houston

The Bills moved a long way in the wrong direction during their trip to Houston

If there’s a silver lining from the Buffalo Bills’ loss to the Houston Texans, it’s that the Bills decided to put on an absolute CLINIC with regard to penalties. I’ll warn you ahead of time, it’s not pretty this week (unless you’re a Texans fan). Short intro because there are many words ahead.

Standard and Advanced Metrics

Penalty Count

Giving credit where credit is due, this is a pretty nice staircase. The Bills had 12 penalties that counted, which doubles the six for the Texans. The league average continues to trickle down despite the Bills’ efforts to single-handedly elevate it. With one penalty declined, Buffalo had 13 penalties called, which should remind us all to get prepared for the lousy Smarch weather ahead.

Penalty Yards

This plays out about as you’d expect, based on counts. The Texans are a touch under the league average while the Bills are double the Texans. The Bills had 229 yards of total offense and gave up almost half that in penalty yards.

Making matters worse, we have the right side of the chart where yards-negated-by-penalty are factored in. The Texans negated just five yards. while the Bills had 58 yards wiped out by yellow laundry.

Penalty Harm

Houston Texans

There’s precious little to discuss on the Texans side of things. A false start (Kendall Lamm), an illegal block above the waist (Shareece Wright) and offsides (Jadeveon Clowney) were yards only. Clowney was also called for a yards-only taunting penalty after the Nathan Peterman pick-six. All things considered, Clowney’s feedback on the play was a lot kinder than that of Bills fans. A holding call on DeAndre Hopkins wiped out a five-yard gain to close out the list. With ten assessed yards and five negated, that gives it a 1.5 Harm rating to tie the taunting penalty for their worst of the contest. Here’s the taunt by the way.

The Texans ended up with a total of 5.5 Harm. That score translates to mostly mistake-free football. If you’re still bothered by the Bills handing the game away, this also might be the last sentence you want to read. Just an FYI.

Buffalo Bills

Where to even start? A couple holding calls were mitigated by field position on special teams (Siran Neal and Deon Lacey). Three false starts are all boo-boos. But THREE? The last boo-boo (Harm under 1.0) is courtesy of Andre Holmes being offside on a free kick, bringing the special teams penalties to our magic number of three today.

Tre’Davious White was called for defensive holding three times. The first gave up one down with the five assessed yards. The second came on third down and gave the Texans a full set of fresh ones. The third was declined because...

Phillip Gaines got called for a 41-yard pass interference violation, setting the Texans up at the goal line. A heck of a stand saved the Bills’ chances, but this flipped the field like that (snaps fingers).

Russell Bodine’s holding call wiped out three yards on a Josh Allen scramble. On third-and-two, though, the negated first down was a killer. Bodine’s flag was good for 3.3 Harm.

Dion Dawkins was hit with one of two illegal formation penalties. His wiped out an 11-yard catch by Zay Jones. An assessed five yards and negated 11 yards comes to 1.6 Harm. Josh Allen’s best throw of the day went to Kelvin Benjamin for 44 yards. This huge gain came on third down. That vanished when Jason Croom was also called for illegal formation, for 6.9 Harm (5 assessed yards + 44 negated yards + 2 downs). The Bills now comfortably lead the league in illegal formation penalties with five. That might not sound so bad, but there have only been 37 across the league this year. That’d be average if there were only eight teams. Let’s look at both because we love salt in our wounds.

I can’t blame the broadcast team for the lack of coverage, there’s a lot to unpack with rules here. In short, there must be at least seven players at the line of scrimmage at the snap. Of those seven (or more), the two at the ends have to be eligible receivers. The little line in front of Zay Jones is there to show he’s a yard or more behind the line of scrimmage. Because of that, it makes Dion Dawkins the left-most player on the line, which means he needs to be an eligible receiver. He’s not, so it’s a penalty.

Here’s another wrinkle on eligibility of receivers to play around with. Patrick DiMarco is the right-most player on the line of scrimmage, meaning he’s supposed to be an eligible receiver—lucky for him he is. Lined up to his left, though, is Jason Croom. Now, while the two players at both ends of the line of scrimmage are supposed to be eligible, no one else on the line is supposed to be. Croom runs a route rather than blocking and gets called for it.

Now, before I reveal the total harm for the game I’d like to reiterate that around ten is the cut off from a good to a bad day. Teens are generally a pretty bad game. In a very winnable game against the Houston Texans, the Bills had 23.2 Harm. There’s been plenty of Nathan Peterman hate in the aftermath of the loss, but blown opportunities throughout the entire game deserve a large portion of blame as well.