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Penalty recap: Tennessee Titans at Buffalo Bills

The Bills and Titans kept things clean in week five

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

In a narrow victory over the Tennessee Titans, the Buffalo Bills helped themselves out by keeping the flags at bay. In what was certainly a game of inches, mistake-free football likely played a significant role in not handing it all away.

Traditional and Advanced Metrics

Penalty count

For the second week in a row, the Bills fall well below the league average in assessed count. The Titans were right behind them with both teams having a clean game. The only shift when it comes to total flags is one declined penalty on the Bills. The league average for both assessed and thrown flags continues to creep down each week.

Penalty yards

There’s very little additional story to tell when it comes to yards. As would be expected, both teams fall under the assessed average by a significant margin, with the Bills putting in a slightly better performance than the Titans. For true yards, the Bills wiped out a five-yard gain—and that was it for yards affected by penalty for the entirety of the game.

Penalty Harm

Tennessee Titans

Not only were the Titans good at keeping their count low, but none of the penalties are especially egregious. A delay of game and neutral-zone infraction were strictly the five-yards-each variety, or 0.5 Harm. Ben Jones’ offensive holding was yardage-only as well (ten yards or 1.0 Harm). Kamalei Correa was called for unnecessary roughness (see below). As it came on first down. This, too, was yardage only for 1.5 Harm. The only penalty on the Titans with a deeper story to tell was the defensive holding called on DaQuan Jones. As it came on second down, it gave the Bills a free down in addition to the five yards for 1.5 Harm. The Titans ended the day with a total of 5.0 Harm. This translates to a very good day on the penalty front.

I know the GIF is suggesting that maybe this wasn’t a good call but that’s just having a little fun with it. Josh Allen threw the ball away well before the contact and Correa has no reason to be anywhere near Allen, let alone making contact. From the first angle I think there’s a good case to hold the flag. From the ref’s angle, though, you gotta pull it. I’m not saying he oversold the shove, but this is the same Josh Allen who walked around with a defender draped over his legs a couple weeks ago.

Buffalo Bills

Deon Lacey was called for offside on a kickoff. The Titans elected to take the five yards after the return. Tre’Davious White was flagged for holding. On first down it was yards only. John Miller’s hold was declined as the pass attempt on 3rd-and-9 fell incomplete. Two calls seemed a little odd live, so lets take a look.

Apologies for the yellow circle in the middle. The best angle available was via the broadcast feed and it has the marking from the broadcast team. This one looks like a terrible call on the surface as Dion Dawkins’ shove at the end is not only within the rules but good form. In real time though, that right arm could easily look like it’s swinging and clubbing the head of Correa. Making things more complicated, recall this occurred almost immediately after Correa shoved Josh Allen, meaning the refs were on high alert for retaliation. Does that make this the right call? No. But in context it’s an understandable one.

This seems like complete BS. Under the false start rules it prohibits an offensive player from any abrupt movement that “simulates the start of the snap.” More importantly, the NFL rules direct the officials to call this when there is “quick abrupt movement.” Furthermore, this is supposed to be called on any obvious attempt by a player set to receive the snap (like Allen is) to draw an opponent offside. This 4th-and-3 play surely felt like an attempt to draw the Titans offside. Allen’s hands do appear to simulate him preparing for the ball and this flag does match up with the rule. That being said, how often does this go uncalled? This penalty is the rare intersection where “technically correct” meets “still bullcrap.” The Bills closed shop with an insanely low 3.5 Harm and a win, so maybe we can move past it.