The Cincinnati Bengals’ and Buffalo Bills’ bromance came to a head this past Sunday as a large preseason crowd welcomed Andy Dalton to New Era Field. Like bros tend to do, there were some squabbles, to the tune of 24 penalties. The Bills led the charge of yellow with 14 of those flags. This was the third poor performance in a row for the Bills.
“It’s unacceptable,” said head coach Sean McDermott on Monday. “The only word for it is unacceptable. You can’t do that and expect to stay on schedule and move the football, in particular, against good defenses. Cincinnati, yesterday’s example, was a good defense. We have to stop hurting ourselves. Before you win, you have to prevent yourself from losing. Pre-snap penalties or penalties overall don’t allow you to play on schedule football offensively.”
Should we be worried? To date, the Bills have had 32 penalties assessed in their three preseason games for 257 yards. They have been called for 36 penalties, including 10 false starts. That’s not great. However, last year they had 34 assessed for 401 yards through three games. During the regular season they finished better than league average, suggesting preseason struggles are a poor indicator of things to come. Basically, this article is for novelty purposes only.
There’s a high rate of penalties from the Bengals that I’d consider to be major ones. Only three of ten (false start, neutral zone and delay) were of the procedural variety. Just like I noted above there’s no reason to think this will necessarily translate to the “real” games. On the flip side, it’s a safe bet that one reason these don’t become regular season trends is because they’re identified and ironed out now. Alex Redmond has likely already heard about this game from his position coach.
Goodwin’s defensive pass interference isn’t a mugging, but it’s the right call. More importantly, these are the kinds of plays the Bills want to see go Kelvin Benjamin’s way. In case you’re wondering, Goodwin is incredibly tall for a defensive back at 6’4” and he struggles to cover Benjamin even with the help of some early contact.
The offensive line is the main story again. I won’t pile on, the chart speaks for itself. Three personal fouls in a single game is not ideal. Blocking technique might need to be reinforced on special teams and offense.
Adam Redmond demonstrates the razor’s edge of the rules in the NFL. FOX analysts disagreed in real time, but he’s rightfully called for a peel back block because he hits Brandon Bell right at the waistline and a little below as he slides. As the contact is from the side it’s illegal. The way Bell goes flying shows why this is a penalty. That’s a lot of force to major joints (hip or knee) against a player that’s in poor position to protect himself. If Redmond was a step faster he likely contacts more to Bell’s front and this is legal.
Dean Marlowe was called for unnecessary roughness and gives us a good window into the new lowering the head penalty. I want to emphasize that the intent is not to call Marlowe a dirty player. Players have been taught to lower their body to make a hit and the new rule necessitates a major adjustment in tackling. As the clip shows, Marlowe checks all the boxes for the penalty by lowering his head and initiating contact with his helmet. As he has an unobstructed route, has other options and creates a flat back he’s also checking all the boxes for ejection. (Not to mention the receiver is giving himself up by sliding.) There are major stakes to the new penalty that conflict with ingrained habits.