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Preseason penalty recap: Buffalo Bills at Detroit Lions

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The Buffalo Bills visited the Detroit Lions and brought plenty of yellow laundry with them

The third week of the preseason is often an interesting blend of tune up for the starters and last-minute jockeying for back-end players. Both groups are fertile ground for penalties. Let’s check in and see if anything interesting happened as the Buffalo Bills faced off against the Detroit Lions.


Just a quick reminder that for the preseason we’re only tracking the Bills. As another quick reminder, based on the couple years of data so far using the penalty harm metric, once a team is in the teens it should be considered a bad game. Let’s check in on how this one went.

Oh dear lord! Thankfully this is the preseason and historically penalties do tend to come down in the regular season. This is also only slightly worse than the last game against the Carolina Panthers (18.7 harm and 13 flags thrown).

On the plus side, look at how easy this is to analyze. Eleven of the 14 flags were some kind of holding. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that there was a non-hold called. On offense, Jon Feliciano and Zay Jones both wiped out yards and a first down. Cody Ford also negated yards while backed up on the wrong side of the field and Russell Bodine also had a couple called back.

Special teams had an abysmal day with almost 30% of the flag total. This is about twice the normal rate. Note that holding on special teams is logged and penalized like the offensive variant. Denzel Rice and Ryan Lewis wiped out 32 yards combined in return yards, which doesn’t help the field-position battle.

Two defensive-holding calls and one defensive pass interference can’t be anything short of infuriating for the coaching staff. Especially after John Butler had the cornerbacks practice with oven mitts to cut back on these flags.

Look closer though. Jordan Phillips isn’t a cornerback. I guess we’ll give him a pass. Let’s peek in to the Buffalo Rumblings’ slack channel as they reacted live to this flag.

Dan Lavoie: “Since when has a DT been called for defensive holding?”

Jeff Kantrowski: “Never”

Sean Murphy: “Literally never have seen it dan lol”

Interesting. Let’s see what flagrant action caused the first holding penalty on a defensive tackle that we’ve ever seen.

How dare he get pulled to the ground by offensive linemen! I’m usually on the side of the officials but this is real bad. If anything it’s offensive holding. Hang on a second, though—it gets worse. Here’s the definition of defensive holding from the rule book, emphasis mine.

It is defensive holding if a player grasps an eligible offensive player (or his jersey) with his hands, or extends an arm or arms to cut off or encircle him.

Uh huh. With this formation none of the offensive lineman are eligible, which is normal. That means Phillips was hit with a flag that’s literally impossible according to the rule book. Alright then. It may have been a bad game penalty wise but at least we had something wacky happen. Until next time penalty fans!