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Penalty recap: Los Angeles Chargers vs. Buffalo Bills

While it felt like the refs spent an eternity discussing flags on Sunday, the volume was surprisingly low.

If you watched the Buffalo Bills host the Los Angeles Chargers you likely felt that the game was bogged down by tons of penalties. Surprisingly, both teams performed quite well in the yellow flag department. An inexperienced crew likely helped slow things down, but... Well let’s get to the charts.

Standard and Advanced Metrics

Penalty Counts

The league average dipped about 0.7 flags per team in Week two which is actually pretty wild. Even with that major dip overall, both the Bills and Chargers outperformed the average in number of flags assessed (left bars).

True count (right bars) includes declined and offset. Buffalo’s one declined flag still keeps them under the NFL average. The Chargers stay at six with no declined or offset. Based on count alone, both teams actually had a good day. The whole point of this series is based on the idea that penalties aren’t all alike though, so let’s turn to yardage measures to see if maybe it was worse than the counts suggested.


For assessed yards, both teams are comfortably below league average. Buffalo was called for half the yards the average team NFL team has been so far this season. The suggestion is some pretty minor penalties. Much the same could be said of the Chargers.

True yards includes those negated due to penalty. Between both teams only ONE penalty the entire game negated positive yards. Sadly it was on the Bills’ side of the ledger. An 18-yard LeSean McCoy run was called back as a result of holding from Jordan Mills. Again, the data suggests this was a very tame contest when it came to flags.

Penalty Harm

Los Angeles Chargers

Going to my signature stat of penalty harm, the trend only continues. Three of the six penalties (delay of game, false start and neutral zone infraction) were “boo-boos.” All three were yardage only and the standard five. In total, the Chargers only had 7.5 Harm. Anything under ten should be considered a good day for flags.

Uchenna Nwosu’s unnecessary roughness likely should have been considered egregious enough for an ejection, but as far as harm it was yardage only thanks to occurring during a punt return.

Melvin Ingram’s horse collar tackle on Josh Allen was assessed for zero yards and impacted zero yards as Buffalo had the ball at the Chargers’ one yard line. The Bills did get one free down though, which explains the 1.0 Harm rating.

The most severe penalty of the game came from Desmond Kings’ unsportsmanlike conduct call. In addition to the 15 yards, the Bills received two free downs (from third down to first). At 3.5 Harm, it’s our featured penalty of the week for the Bills’ opponent.

There was no way I was going to immortalize the shot Taiwan Jones took, so let’s discuss this one instead. From a yardage standpoint this was assessed the same as the hit on Jones. This play however also added the aforementioned free downs. By any measure, this insidious action on the part of Desmond King was punished more harshly than the roughness call that left Jones bruised and bleeding.

Buffalo Bills

This...needs explaining. The 18-yard run wiped out by Mills was the only significant penalty called on the Bills all game. By negating a first down and 18 yards, it landed at 3.8 Harm. The Bills total Harm came out to be 5.9 which is very good. Essentially, penalties were a nearly insignificant part of their game. Let’s discuss.

Logan Thomas’ holding call was the assessed yards only. It occurred on special teams and couldn’t negate yards or down easily. Jerry Hughes’ offside call was the assessed yardage only. The same applies to Dion Dawkins and the false start. Dawkins’ holding call was declined when the Chargers decided an incomplete pass on 3rd and 9 was a better outcome for them.

Jordan Mills’ false start came when the Bills were backed up on their own three-yard line. Assessed officially as one yard, it didn’t drastically alter the already $#&**# field position very much. Similarly, having too many men on the field when the Chargers were at the Buffalo one-yard line didn’t really help Los Angeles out all that much. So to some extent, the Bills didn’t have bad results from penalties because they had already put themselves in such a bad position. That’s sure to make you feel better.

This is the result of a defensive end living on the razor’s edge. Is Hughes offside? Yeah, but by about 0.1 seconds. It’s really hard to find too much at fault with this penalty as timing the snap up is a high reward venture when done well. And Hughes does it well more often than not.