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Penalty recap: Some humor to be found in flags as Buffalo Bills fall to New England Patriots

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It’s mostly bad news this week, but we do have a hilarious thing to cover

This was a tough game for officiating. On one hand, the crew called the New England Patriots (correctly) with not one, but two offensive pass-interference flags in addition to getting really pissed at the time keeper who was up to some shenanigans. On the other hand they missed a face mask on Josh Allen, Tom Brady trying to trip Ed Oliver, and Tom Brady throwing a quick punch at Ed Oliver. They also tossed a lot more flags on the Buffalo Bills, but we’ll check in to see if these were legit or not.

Due to the holiday bustle, there’s no penalty GIFs this week. They’ll be back though.


Standard and Advanced Metrics

Penalty Counts

So yeah, this looks bad. New England had a ridiculously low count, especially considering that the count could have realistically doubled just from the number of blown calls I recall off the top of my head. Buffalo’s day was pretty average (again) so really the only story is the discrepancy between the two teams.

Penalty Yards

Now this chart. This chart is interesting. The Patriots have the edge still in assessed, but it’s a lot closer. Buffalo even falls below average for this measure. The suggestion is that Buffalo’s penalties were less severe despite being more frequent.

When we tally true yards, the Bills only tack on four more yards. New England adds 52 yards negated by penalty, which if you weren’t sure, is a lot. We’ll save how that happened for a little later.

Penalty Harm

Buffalo Bills

There were a few boo-boos that didn’t really impact the game. Both an offensive holding call on Mitch Morse and an illegal hands to the face on Cody Ford were declined on a sack. I didn’t see anything I’d call a hold but Ford really earned his flag. Reid Ferguson and Devin Singletary were called for false starts that are assessed yards only.

Both of Jordan Phillips’s flags were inconsequential as well. His encroachment flag was for one yard only. Rex Burkhead was able to slip a couple tackles, and all things being equal would have scored from the two-yard line. The unsportsmanlike conduct was assessed on the kickoff and made the touchback even more touchbackier.

Levi Wallace was called for illegal contact. It was warranted. The five-yard penalty was accepted and wiped out a four-yard play from the Patriots. Put in the formula that’s 5 yards assessed plus -4 yards impacted for a rating of 0.1 Harm.

Tre’Davious White was called for another defensive pass interference. Both parties were making contact, but it looked like White deserved the flag. It was only for 10 yards, but gave up two free downs to land at 3.0 Harm.

The illegal formation was also the right call as no eligible players were on the line to Cody Ford’s right. This wiped out 8 yards in addition to the assessed for a total of 1.3 Harm. The Bills ended with 7.0 Harm, which was not a lucky number despite representing a pretty clean game.

New England Patriots

The Patriots deserved all three of these and more, so let’s get that right out of the way. Brandon Bolden’s illegal block above the waist was the lowest-rated penalty for the Patriots at 1.1 Harm. The flag wiped out the final yard of a seven-yard gain as well as setting them back ten yards from the spot.

For those who think the Patriots aren’t called for anything, despite being low volume on flags overall, they have seven offensive-pass-interference penalties this year. While that may nor seem like a lot, it’s nearly double the league rate for this specific penalty.

Benjamin Watson was flagged for this on 3rd down, and the Patriots gained 18 yards for the first. Watson’s flag removed all of that progress. 10 yards assessed + 18 yards negated + 2 downs given = 3.8 Harm.

And here’s the best story of the day. Julian Edelman was called for pass interference after initiating a collision with Buffalo. He then proceeded to lay on the ground and act injured, which didn’t help his cause with the officials. His flag was a doozy, so let’s break out a list of ways in which this hurt the Patriots who were 2nd-and-8 at the 33-yard line.

  • New England had just passed for 33 yards in addition to the 10 yards assessed for 4.3 Harm, but...
  • This flag also took away the first down New England had just gotten for another 1.0 Harm.
  • The Patriots had scored a touchdown on the play. Wiping out one of those is 7.0 Harm by itself
  • Add it all together and you get 12.3 Harm, quite a bit higher than the Bills’ total
  • New England didn’t make up the TD, losing four points via this flag
  • New England’s best receiver had to exit the field to be checked for a possible concussion
  • Edelman related in an interview that he acted hurt on the play. Keep your eyes peeled as this is something that can still be punished

New England’s total harm was 18.2, drastically higher than Buffalo’s. It’s small consolation, but at least we can laugh at Edelman for what could be one of the worst penalties ever seen.