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Penalty Recap: Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills Wild Card Round

So few flags

Another week another letdown in the penalty department. There’s even less this week. Now what am I gonna write about? I suppose it’s good news that the Buffalo Bills squeaked out a Wild Card Round victory over the Indianapolis Colts but is it even a win without a plethora of penalties?

Hint: “Yes”


Standard and Advanced Metrics

Penalty Counts

I’ll include the league rates for curiosity’s sake but know that there is some evidence to suggest the refs really do cut down on flags in the playoffs. That said, both the Bills and Colts were very low with two assessed flags each. Buffalo had one declined as well to skyrocket all the way to...three.

Penalty Yards

Neither team negated any yards by penalty, which is why the right-hand columns are the same as the left (with the exception of league average, which isn’t tracked in a manner I can use). The Bills had single-digit penalty yards, which is rare to say the least. The Colts tied a standard holding call with their yards. Yawn.

Penalty Harm

Buffalo Bills

Matt Milano’s offsides was the declined one. The Colts completed a 23-yard pass, which some quick math will show is more than the five yards they’d have had with the flag.

Jaquan Johnson was called for holding on a kickoff. It was called at the end of the run so it didn’t negate yardage. As it occurred at the 12-yard line, it was half the distance to the goal for six. There was also a facemask that was missed on linebacker Matthew Adams that would have offset the holding call.

The most interesting penalty though was on Quinton Jefferson. Flagged for a neutral-zone infraction on an extra-point attempt, the opponent has the option to apply it to another extra-point attempt from five yards closer, or “half the distance” on a two-point try. The Colts elected the latter for a one-yard flag. Then the Bills stuffed the attempt. Jefferson’s penalty saved a point, which is fun.

The Bills had a total of 0.7 Harm, which is a phenomenally clean day.

Indianapolis Colts

The delay of game added five yards on 4th-and-5. The Colts were likely trying to draw Buffalo offsides and in the end had a little more room to punt.

The offsides on Kemoko Turay was Buffalo trying to do the same thing on 4th-and-3. In the Bills’ case it worked. It gave up the five yards, which gave a first down. That’s three free downs given. Allen was also intercepted on the play, which was also negated. These are assessed as “negating” the four downs your team would have had, making the final tally 0.5 for yards + 3.0 for free downs + 4.0 for the negated turnover = 7.5 Harm.

The Colts had 8.0 Harm, which is still a decent day but quite high for only having two penalties.

One last thing. I did see a few concerns about the play clock. Specifically, that the Colts should have been called for a few more delay-of-game penalties. I can’t speak for all of them, but in general this article I wrote last year should cover it.