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Penalty recap: Buffalo Bills cleanly throttle New England Patriots

Very few flags to sully

Usually penalties are the most important thing each week, but I think we’ll need to acknowledge that the beating the Buffalo Bills put on the New England Patriots, on their turf and in front of the whole world, was pretty great. And there weren’t even all that many flags. Let’s discuss the flags and one non-flag as we celebrate the suh-suh-suh-suh-SWEEP of the Patriots.


Standard and Advanced Metrics

Penalty Counts

This is a great start. Both teams were under the league average in assessed count with the Bills having a slight advantage. The gap widens in true count with the Patriots adding a declined flag into the mix.

Penalty Yards

There’s a slight reversal in assessed yards with Buffalo having two more than New England. Both are well under the league average though. The script flips again for true yards as the Bills negated seven yards to the Patriots’ 20.

Penalty Harm

Buffalo Bills

May as well do all of these. The holding call on Taiwan Jones occurred on special teams and not the one snap he had on offense. It was assessed for seven yards or half the distance to the goal and negated a seven yard return to land at 1.4 Harm.

Tre’Davious White’s pass interference call looked fringe live but on replay he was clearly a bit early. The flag itself was only for five yards, but also gave up a free down to land at 1.5 Harm.

We’ll take a look at A.J. Epenesa’s flag in just a second. For the rating it was the usual 15 yards and bailed out the Patriots on a third down or two free downs. That comes out 3.5 Harm.

I’ll admit I didn’t like this call live but it’s pretty clear on review. I can break it down into the nitty gritty, but the wording of the rule makes it a flag to forcibly hit a passer in the head or neck area with any part of the body. Epenesa makes contact with his facemask and chest to Stidham’s head and neck area. It’s certainly not the most forcible contact ever but I don’t hate the call.

After nearly setting the all-time record against Denver with roughly 800 negated touchdowns, the 6.4 Harm from this game was a welcome relief to fans. Mostly me though.

New England Patriots

These are mostly straightforward. Matthew Slater was called for an illegal block above the waist. It wiped out four yards on the return as well as the ten yards for the flag itself.

Chase Winovich’s neutral-zone infraction was the standard five yards. The more interesting part of the flag was Stefon Diggs who shows that the Bills prepare for the free play. Diggs looked like he was shot out of a cannon and disappointed that the play was blown dead.

Adam Butler was called for being offsides. Twice. Fifty seconds apart. The first was declined when Josh Allen ran for 22 yards. Had Allen been stuffed on the 4th-and-1 it would have been a costly “five-yard” penalty.

The second offsides call on Butler was the Josh Allen interception. The Buffalo Bills and Allen in particular have been pretty masterful with the free play, including taking risky shots knowing that an interception will be called back. In addition to the five-yard flag, this play wiped out 20 yards of return (touchback) and the four downs the Patriots would have gained had the interception counted.

I think the flag everyone WANTS to discuss though is the holding call on Cam Newton’s touchdown. Let’s watch closely then discuss.

During and immediately after the game the only angle was the broadcast one. From that angle I felt it was a great no-call. After watching the All-22 end zone angle there’s a hand pulling and it likely does create some upper body torsion, contributing to Mario Addison falling backwards. Even after watching all the angles I still feel Addison’s momentum also was a primary factor in what occurred.

Verdict: Holding absolutely coulda been called and if anyone wants to go so far as “shoulda” I support that. I don’t hate the no-call as Addison might have toppled on his own. In the end we have a Schrödinger’s play. Could the touchdown have been stopped if Addison wasn’t held? I wouldn’t doubt it. I wouldn’t guarantee it either.

The Patriots had a slightly worse day than the Bills at 8.5 Harm, mostly off the back of the negated turnover. Even with this sentence I used over 500 words less than I did to explain the Denver game.