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Penalty recap: Buffalo Bills see lots of yellow vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Seriously, they’re making a lot of work for me

The Buffalo Bills hosted the Los Angeles Chargers and came out with a convincing victory despite some mishaps. Many of these mishaps were penalty-related. Part of the story has to include the “even larger” mishaps the Chargers had. This also extends to penalties. Let’s dive in!

Standard and Advanced Metrics

Penalty counts

This chart really speaks for itself but I need some words here or it’ll make the spacing look really weird. The Bills are clearly off to a rough start on our first metric. The Chargers had roughly one more flag thrown than average, but fell in around league average for assessed.

Penalty yards

This has some intrigue. The Bills are predictably higher than average for assessed yards. The shocker is that the Chargers had a rougher day in this measure despite the significantly lower counts. For both teams the negated yardage added to the True Yards column came off of a single play. They were also back-to-back penalties a little over two minutes apart toward the end of the fourth quarter.

Penalty Harm

Los Angeles Chargers

There were a lot of penalties in this game. Let’s use the bullet format.

  • The too-many-men-on-the-field flag was declined as the Bills picked up a first down on their own and gained eight yards on a catch by Stefon Diggs.
  • Justin Jones was called for being offsides but you might recall a pretty big catch by Gabriel Davis that the Bills liked better.
  • Rayshawn Jenkins was flagged for defensive pass interference on a long throw to Diggs. It was yardage only at 47 for a rating of 4.7 Harm.
  • Chris Harris’s holding call was offset by one on Dion Dawkins. I know a lot of the calls were controversial in this game and we can’t avoid that conversation. I don’t think I need to convince anyone that Harris yanking Cole Beasley by the jersey was a flag but the Dawkins half of the offset might be a tougher sell. Here it is...

He drags Jerry Tillery down by his shoulder so that’s absolutely a justified call. Egregious? Nah. Phantom? Definitely not.

  • Tillery was hit for two 15 yarders. Well the face mask was only half the distance to the goal for four yards, but two “big penalties” anyway. That face mask also occurred on second down, giving the Bills a free down. Neither were especially egregious nor were they all that controversial, especially for Bills fans.
  • The shoulder Denzel Perryman drove into Cole Beasley’s helmet as he was already being tackled was quite obvious and made it an easy call for unnecessary roughness.
  • Feel free to take a look yourself at the Jalen Guyton offensive pass interference if you like, but it felt pretty obvious live he was guilty without question. This wiped out 46 yards of the throw on top of the ten assessed yards. Because it happened on fourth down it negated three downs for a total of 8.6 Harm. The next play was the Hail Mary so they made the yardage back (plus nine actually). The 14 seconds of clock isn’t captured in the Harm rating but was the real damage here.

Overall the Chargers had 17.7 Harm, which translates to a really rough day with flags.

Buffalo Bills

Ugh. That’s a lot of flags. Let’s stick to bullets.

  • Jon Feliciano’s false start is one of the few flags that doesn’t have a deeper story this week.
  • Dion Dawkins had two holding calls. The offset one was discussed above. Here’s the other one that was assessed at ten yards, wiped out 12 more, and negated a first down from third for 4.2 Harm.

That’s another one that’s not egregious but not phantom. He does grab and jerk (phrasing), pulling Tillery to the ground. As a matter of fact “pulling him to the ground” is verbatim one of the examples of a “material restriction” and applies to both flags on Dawkins.

  • I kiiiiiinda see the case for Josh Allen’s unsportsmanlike conduct as he was looking at the defender as he did it. That said I still think it was bull$#!%. This is a subjective flag to be sure but how is this substantively different than dramatically signaling a first down or celebrating a sack?
  • There’s a three-way tie for quarterbacks at four penalties on the year. Allen stands alone in fourth place with three flags.
  • All of Allen’s flags are 15 yarders (two conduct and one face mask). He is the ONLY quarterback to have either type this year. Way to go Josh!
  • If you care about Ed Oliver’s obvious neutral zone infraction ask away in the comments. See below for the roughing call.
  • Jordan Poyer was a bit unlucky but his unnecessary roughness call was justified. Keenan Allen was falling after the catch and Poyer’s momentum carried him helmet to helmet on Allen. All of the above was helped out by Micah Hyde using his left hand in a way the refs might have discouraged as well. Here’s a look.
  • I’ve seen a lot of conversation on social media wondering why Gabriel Davis was called for unnecessary roughness and this one is 100% deserved. I don’t think it was intentional or dirty mind you, but he drives his shoulder right into a dude’s face. I know I’ve covered the blindside block rules a few times, so hopefully we can recognize this would have fallen under those guidelines if it occurred during the play. Since Allen slid first it’s roughness instead. Against my better judgment here’s a look to prove it.

Yes his movement back to his own end line is slight and, yes, part of the positioning is because of how things developed on the block from which Davis was disengaging. Those mean it’s not a dirty hit, but it’s still a flag.

  • Darryl Williams’s ineligible downfield pass is interesting from a philosophy standpoint. The Bills had the ball at the Chargers’ 15-yard line with 1st-and-10. This penalty was declined as the pass was incomplete. The Chargers had to choose from 1st-and-15 at the 20, or 2nd-and-10 at the 15. It’s an intriguing game of context here and was definitely one of Los Angeles’ better decisions in my mind.
  • Quinton Jefferson was definitely too low on his hit of Justin Herbert and I don’t think his roughing call was controversial. It was assessed at half the distance to the goal. Because the ball was at the one-yard line to begin with it’s officially recorded as a zero for assessed yardage—though it did give up a down.
  • Tyler Matakevitch was hit with an illegal formation on the opening kickoff. The Chargers had returned the ball to the 21 and elected to have the Bills re-kick from five yards back hoping for a better return. Seemingly to spite the Chargers’ decision the Bills had Tyler Bass kick that ****er out of the end zone. It actually hit the crossbar.
  • Zack Moss’s flag was a bad call. We all know he tossed the ball behind him when he got up, the All-22 angles pretty convincingly show that the ball did hit the defender. Moss was doing a pretty common act to drop the ball and wasn’t looking at where it went so I don’t like the flag here.
  • Ed Oliver’s roughing the passer was a bit controversial. Here it is...

I covered this one last because it’s a lot to juggle. Roughing the passer rules are crazy complex (Rule 12, Section 2, Article 11). I initially thought this was on Tre’Davious White for hitting in the knees (subclause d). I forgot that the QB isn’t protected from low hits after they leave the pocket (subclause f). Unless they stop to reset into a throwing position. Justin Herbert didn’t do that though, so White is clean. With me so far? It’ll only get weirder.

Next I wondered if Ed Oliver made contact late. Remember a defender can only make contact within their “first step” after the ball is released (subclause a). As soon as foot two comes down it’s a flag. Arguably Oliver might be late under this rule. Except a QB on the move outside the pocket is also not covered by this rule (subclause f again). So Oliver is fine hitting on his second step.

Phew, OK. Like the GIF shows I don’t think Oliver hits Herbert in the head directly (subclause c). But the rule is “head or neck area” and I think that could be argued. That makes it ticky-tack in my book but not a phantom call.

Subclause b makes the most sense. Defenders are prohibited from “punishing” acts like “stuffing” or landing on top of the QB with their full weight. Oliver does that so I think this call was pretty good. And if you consider how the refs had to juggle this all in real time it’s pretty dang good.

The Bills had 15.7 Harm total, which isn’t too far behind the Chargers’ woeful day.