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Penalty recap: New York Jets at Buffalo Bills

The refs seemingly tried to avoid throwing flags on a rainy day with little meaning

At the risk of spoiling the fun, on a rainy day in Western New York the officials seemed to avoid tossing flags unless they saw something pretty blatant. As a result we’ll be GIF-heavy and data-light as we ramp up toward playoff football.


Standard and advanced metrics

Penalty count

This is incredibly straightforward with zero declined or offset penalties. The New York Jets clearly outperformed the Buffalo Bills, but both teams easily outperformed league averages. Speaking of the league average, it went down again and is now nearly as low as last year’s average. If the trend of fewer flags in the playoffs continues it’s probable that 2019 did not see significantly more penalties than 2018.

As a fun thing to look at below, notice the names called and the penalty types. It’s reasonable to conclude that Buffalo had the higher count due to resting many starters.

Penalty yards

The trend from above continues. The Jets, as you’ll see, had an incredibly clean game to the point where their true-yards count is lower than their assessed value. Coincidentally, I’ve often wondered if “Total yards” isn’t a better term as it’s the sum of assessed yards and yards impacted/negated. It’s games like these that remind me of why I chose “True yards.” You’ll see why in just a moment.

Penalty harm

New York Jets

The Jets had 0.9 Harm for the entire game, which is insanely low. Essentially their flags were meaningless or nearly so. Let’s discuss both.

Tarrell Basham’s block was definitely parallel to his own end line. I’m not sure there was contact with his head, shoulder, or forearm, which is a second component thanks to the angle. Forearm is pretty likely I’ll admit. And this is definitely “forcible.” This was half the distance to the goal for eight yards, or 0.8 Harm.

There’s not much need for a GIF for the too-many-men-on-the-field call as it’s simple counting. The Bills ran a quick play and caught the Jets during a substitution. Because the Jets were completely unprepared the Bills gained four yards on 3rd-and-1 for a first down. Accepting the penalty really only gave them an extra yard for 0.1 Harm. This flag is the one that adjusted their True Yards down as four of them were happening regardless of the penalty.

Buffalo Bills

The only one I don’t have a GIF for is the false start by Ryan Bates. If you’re willing to take my word for it he jumped really early for an easy call. Here’s the rest of them.

Robert Foster is guilty as hell. I 100% would not be surprised to see that one end up in a future video tutorial for illegal block in the back. The missed face mask was the only truly blown call I recall. As there’s supposed to be one official shadowing every skill position player there’s not much reason to miss someone’s head going all “Exorcist.” Assessed at ten yards and negating eleven, we get to 2.1 Harm.

I have no issue with this call. It could have easily been called as a blindside block as well but I don’t mind it as unnecessary roughness. This was a doozy. It gave up 15 yards and two free downs which is 3.5 Harm by itself. Tack on the 4.0 for wiping out a turnover and this is a back-breaker type flag for 7.5 Harm.

The crowd hated this one at New Era Field, but on closer examination Tommy Sweeney is clearly shoving past the five yards he’s allowed. I give it a one on the BS meter only because I’ve seen worse not get called. This is completely fair though. The ten assessed yards and 12 negated lead to 2.2 Harm.

Dean Marlowe is clearly offside here. This close to the end zone it’s a zero-yard flag so no harm. In all, though, the Bills had 12.3 Harm, which is a pretty rough day. Most of that is off of the negated turnover but negating a quarter of the field or so in yards isn’t great either. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these guys aren’t playing much next week.