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2020 Penalty Recap: Buffalo Bills team trends

The trends in yellow for the 2020 season

Before we begin this, a disclaimer is in order. Unlike weekly recaps there’s no room for rules discussion, controversial calls, or anything like that. This article is for the number crunchers. As such, I’ll try to keep commentary to a minimum and let you soak in the glory of the charts. They say a picture is worth a thousand words after all. When those pictures are packed with data though, the sky’s the limit.


Penalties by type

We’re starting with the big one! Hopefully it’s organized enough to be self-explanatory but if not ask away in the comments. It’s sorted by phase of the game and tallies most of the pertinent statistics I track. This chart is why we need a warning. It’s far less convenient than thorough.

Some quick thoughts from this table:

  • Offensive holding and false start were the two most common penalty types. This is quite normal. Offensive holding also has the distinction of negating the most yardage, which is also to be expected.
  • Despite only coming in at 60 percent of the total count of offensive holding, defensive pass interference takes the crown for most penalty yardage. I doubt anyone is truly shocked by this.
  • The offense has the worst totals nearly across the board.
  • The exception to that last thing is downs given/negated as defensive penalties have those pesky “automatic first down” rules in place.
  • This table (and the rest of them) give you handy references to team totals at the bottom. Just a reminder that I count declined and offset.

Distribution by phase of game

You’d certainly be able to glean most of this from the first table. I even reference it above. The offense is responsible for most of the damage via penalties. Distribution by phase of game has always fascinated me though and I like to have a quicker view at it.

Distribution by quarter

NEW THIS YEAR! An early season lag in data from my preferred source led me to use a different site’s play-by-play to pull info from. That site separated by quarter so I modified my table to accommodate. When my preferred source caught up I kept it because distribution by quarter was something I’ve wanted to do for a while now.

It’s kind of shocking that the second half of games is noticeably worse. I’ll let you ponder why that might be the case. I can think of a few possibilities but regardless it’s a fascinating find.

Incidentally, my preferred source, nflpenalties.com has added a query builder. It doesn’t track everything the same way I do (yards negated, downs negated, possession change negated, etc). It is a heck of a tool though. Check it out here.

Trends by year

This is another table that needs little commentary. I was surprised to see how consistent things have been since head coach Sean McDermott came to town. The Buffalo Bills have been pretty penalty prone under McDermott by the way. It hasn’t impacted their success much, however.

Alright, that’s all the charts we have for today. Thank you to everyone who has checked out the penalty recaps on a weekly basis. If there’s anything I missed, let me know in the comments and I’ll see if I can “skare” up an answer.