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Penalty recap: Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans

Well...that sucked

That was...not fun to watch. The Buffalo Bills attempted to raise the league average for penalties singlehandedly against the Tennessee Titans. And that wasn’t even the worst of their gaffes. To cope with this crapfest of a game I’ll depart from the usual format a bit to make this recap a bit more fun.

Standard and Advanced Metrics

Penalty Counts

Though it was slight, the league average continues to trend downward week by week. Not the Bills though. They decided to go the other way and full speed ahead! Doubling the league average in this particular category is a bold strategy, Cotton. The Titans stuck around league average. “Fun” fact: Tennessee only had one second-half penalty and it was on the opening kickoff. The Bills? Eight.

Penalty Yards

League averages for assessed yards dipped by over half a yard, which is quite a bit for a single week. The Titans again stuck around league average. Shockingly so did Buffalo. A higher amount of pre-snap flags than normal drastically lowered the yards per penalty average.

Buffalo negated 26 yards by penalty and Tennessee wiped out 21.

Penalty Harm

Tennessee Titans

Most of these flags are self-explanatory for the harm rating. Jadeveon Clowney’s offside wiped out a two-yard run by Josh Allen which is why it’s lower than expected.

Tye Smith’s holding call occurred on a Corey Bojorquez punt. It was the 71-yarder. At half the distance to the goal for nine yards and wiping out an eight-yard gain on the return it comes out to 1.7 Harm and more importantly it made the punt effectively an 80-yarder.

Geoff Swaim was called for an illegal double-team block on a Tyler Bass kickoff. That one was also half the distance to the goal for 12 yards and negated two yards on the return. Swaim also spells his first name incorrectly which should be an automatic 15-yarder.

Nick Westbrook-Ikhine had the most consequential flag for the Titans when he was called for offensive pass interference. This flag wiped out 13 yards and a first down on third. That’s 10 yards assessed + 13 negated + 2 downs for 4.3 Harm. Their total harm was 8.7, which is on the right side of things.

Buffalo Bills

Soooo many pre-snap flags. Holy crap. I won’t bother with most of these and instead of our usual format I’m gonna drop a ton of GIFs and editorialize a bit. The total harm for the Bills was 21.2, which translated to a bad day.

Let’s start off with a decent call by the refs.

Pass rushing can be very hazardous with roughing-the-passer calls. Just to rule out a few things, Quinton Jefferson didn’t hit too low or too high. He didn’t try to stuff Tannehill or drive through him. That brings up the one-step part of the rule. Defenders are held strictly liable for knowing where the ball is and need to pull up as soon as it leaves the quarterback’s hands. The defender can make contact through his first step after the ball exits. The instant a second step touches the ground it’s a flag. It’s super tight here but technically the contact is made as the second step hits the ground. I don’t love this call, but I can’t hate it either. At this point in the game the flag set up a touchdown to go up by 18 late in the third. This was third down so if this isn’t called it’s a field goal, which means a two-score deficit rather than three.

It’s incredibly important that this was called an illegal shift and not illegal motion. A shift is basically moving from one spot in the formation to another and requires a reset between the next “shift.” Motion in the backfield is not inherently tied to a destination and does not require a reset as long as the ball is snapped while the player is moving. There’s more to the two rules but by calling it an illegal shift the idea is that Diggs didn’t reset in his new spot before the ball was snapped. Diggs hasn’t stopped at the snap and should have been considered “in motion” rather than “shifting.” I don’t like this call at all. Luckily the Bills made up for the negated touchdown but they shouldn’t have needed to. This is the big bar on the chart.

Another Quinton Jefferson penalty but one I really don’t like. Yes he did flinch but he never crossed into the no-no zone.

Josh Norman’s first defensive pass interference of the game and frame-by-frame confirmed what I thought live. There’s no way this ball was catchable. Not only was it at least six yards from play, the receiver was moving the opposite direction. Norman does arguably give a tug on the arm, though none of the angles make it look like it “significantly hinders” the receiver. If the ball hadn’t been in the air you could maybe argue illegal contact or holding, but there’s zero contact prior to the ball being released. Plain and simple this is a phantom flag.

The angles are all pretty crap on Josh Norman’s second DPI. The wording I used above was deliberate. In order to constitute pass interference Norman would have to “restricts the opponent’s opportunity to make the catch.” While I do think there’s contact prior to the ball arriving nothing suggests to me that it was “restrictive.” This is less sketchy than the last one but still sketchy.

To be perfectly clear, the Bills shot themselves in the foot early and often. You’d have been hard pressed to find a better script to hand away a victory. That said, poor officiating didn’t make the contest any easier for Buffalo.