I apologize in advance for the longer than normal intro but bear with me. Usually I stick with my formulas, and try to avoid the “fairness” of the crew except where it’s absolutely necessary to judge a flag. And even then I generally stick to the rule as much as I can.
That said, sometimes you need to make an exception. And Land Clark deserves an exception. This is the second time Clark’s crew has called a Bills game. The first one was strange. So strange I called it out. So strange that the first time the man came on screen against Jacksonville I immediately recognized him despite only seeing him in one Bills game.
I defend the refs a lot. I like to think it’s me being objective. When significant flags go against the Buffalo Bills I’m often the sole voice saying “It sucks, but that’s the right call.” I’ve received a lot of credit over the years for this approach and if you’re one of many who have given me those kudos this next thing is for you. I may not cover everything you were hoping for. This quick summary, if you can trust the objective guy might cover a lot of bases.
I really can’t think of a game I’ve watched with worse officiating. Ever.
Standard and Advanced Metrics
I’ll be spending a lot of time on the Harm sections for each team so to cut this short I have two bullet points:
- The league averages trickled ever so slightly down this week. I’m ready to call it. The 2021 league average will be what you’re looking at (with a tiny bit of wiggle room)
- Speaking of averages, Buffalo nearly doubled the league average for assessed
And they more than doubled the assessed yardage. I’ll discuss whether flags were warranted below, but the overall point of this series is to determine the impact of flags on the game. The Bills were in striking distance of matching Trevor Lawrence’s passing yards for this game via penalties. He had 151 in case you were wondering (139 net).
I’ll level with y’all, this segment is mostly fueled by the fanatical followers who’ve been here right along. That means the formula is probably well known to most of you seeing this. That said, new readers should feel welcome. If you’re not sure what penalty harm is, the short version is that it’s a red flag system that assigns “harm” to various aspects like yardage (assessed and negated), lost downs, and scores/turnovers negated. Numbers aren’t intended to be absolute, but rather a quick view system meaning “Big numbers = we need to take a look.”
I point that out because I think this week might be more valuable running through most of these flags and talking more about their overall “fairness.” In chronological order (Buffalo’s flags are below), here we go...
- The taunting on Laviska Shenault Jr. was probably warranted. The replay doesn’t catch much but he was starting to flex over Tre’Davious White at the end of what was shown. This is also the infamous flag initially called on Mitch Trubisky. This was a sign of things to come.
- The Jaguars second penalty was an illegal shift on Laquon Treadwell. This was an easy and correct call. Treadwell went in motion, moved toward the line and didn’t set before the ball was snapped.
- Tyler Shatley technically put his hands on Tremaine Edmunds’s back and gave a little shove. And I do mean little. There’s no discernible impact on Edmunds. Technically right, but the definition of ticky-tack. And I’m giving the Jags the benefit of the doubt here if that says anything.
- Jawaan Taylor flat out tackled Jerry Hughes and then rolled on top of him. Very much deserved holding flag. This was the only declined flag of the game and allowed the Jags to try a 55-yard field goal. From an analytics perspective, taking the flag is likely the better choice, but it’s probably close.
- I’ll cover all the false starts here, where Norwell’s would be listed. When they WERE called, the false starts in this game did occur and were fair. The bigger issue was consistency and I won’t make GIFs as the social media world is already flooded with them. A really fine-line call on Ike Boettger was warranted, but far less egregious than some early movement by the Jaguars at a few points that weren’t called. Similarly, Land Clark and company were really shaky with offsides/neutral zone issues too. Inconsistency in officiating is the number one sin and Clark committed it.
- The final one to discuss is the delay of game, which was clearly the right call.
The Jaguars had 6.8 Harm total, well and truly on the right side of things.
We’ll do the same idea for Buffalo. Here are your bullets:
- Buffalo’s first flag was unnecessary roughness on Tre’Davious White, initially called on Jacksonville. This is a good commentary on how poorly Clark and crew called this, as it’s very clearly White that started this. There’s a slim case for offsetting, but White is far more blatant. Austin gets up and immediately puts his hands up to make sure he’s not looking like he’s instigating (after the GIF ends). Note: They got it right, but only after a lot longer deliberation than necessary AND confusing the teams/audience.
- If you can believe it, the officiating crew went over an entire quarter before calling another flag, this one on Dion Dawkins for unnecessary roughness as well. There was no replay for whatever reason but it’s pretty clear. On perhaps the best block by any lineman the entire day, Dawkins pancaked his man...and then jumped on him for zero reason whatsoever. Good call by the refs, woefully perplexing call by Dawkins.
- Siran Neal had a hand full of face mask for several seconds. Easy call on the illegal hands flag.
- A.J. Klein was called for unnecessary roughness on special teams and I 100 percent tossed out an expletive in the Buffalo Rumblings slack channel. The replay shows Klein’s feet getting tangled in what’s obviously NOT unnecessary roughness. On review, there’s a shove at the end of the play. It’s actually sliiiiightly after the play ended and I don’t hate it as a roughness call. This would probably be fine during the play. If the flag was for that I get it.
- Star Lotulelei was called for defensive holding, a very odd call for a defensive lineman. Defensive holding is written like a lot of people think offensive holding is. You can’t grab a player or their jersey. Based on practice I don’t think this is a literal prohibition against all grabbing. The broadcast doesn’t have a replay but from the initial angle this call is confusing as hell. Perhaps the coaches film would reveal something but there’s zero evidence of a hold by Lotulelei in broadcast.
- Live I did not like Tremaine Edmunds getting flagged for roughing the passer. On review I’m at peace with it, but don’t really love it. There’s contact to the head/neck area, and it’s likely forcible. If this wasn’t called due to the hands making contact first I’d be fine with that too.
- There’s no controversy with the Siran Neal defensive pass interference. He was draped on his man, restricted an arm, and never looked back.
- The Taiwan Jones running into the kicker was clearly the right call.
- Cody Ford was called for holding and I don’t love this call at all. There’s enough there where I do get it, but begrudgingly. Usually you’re looking for a twist, jerk, or pulling motion. Ford does latch and prevent his man from twisting, but there’s not a ton here.
- Levi Wallace was called for taunting and we’ll need to take the officials’ word on this one. Wallace is popped by the receiver in a vicious, but likely legal, block. Then we don’t see anything. Wallace likely did something to get some bad attention.
The Bills racked up 16.1 Harm, which is on the wrong side of things. They’ve had worse, but this was still a bad game.