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Bills vs. Packers: A look at those holding penalties

These were a bit curious

During the Buffalo Bills preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, two offensive holding calls were levied against the Bills during the second quarter. Both were kind of head scratchers. Naturally there’ll be GIFs. But first, da rules!


I’ll keep this simple as I did an entire article on offensive holding back in 2018. You can check it out here. The rule hasn’t changed in the rulebook since then and, as far as I know, there haven’t been any points of emphasis issued that would drastically change how it’s called.

Here’s the rule on offensive holding (emphasis mine):

“[A player cannot] Use his hands or arms to materially restrict or alter the defender’s path or angle of pursuit. It is a foul regardless of whether the blocker’s hands are inside or outside the frame of the defender’s body. Material restrictions include but are not limited to:

1. grabbing or tackling an opponent;

2. hooking, jerking, twisting, or turning him; or

3. pulling him to the ground.”

There are nuances beyond this, but most of them cover exceptions to allow grabbing, pulling, etc. They loosen the rule is what I’m getting at—not make it more restrictive. The rationale for an entire article back in 2018 was that many fans think it should be called more often than the refs are looking for. The quick version is basically you can’t do anything that blatantly alters the defender’s path. So then, here’s the GIFs.

Gabriel Davis holding call

I slowed it down for y’all to see and of course I did frame-by-frame for my own review and...

I got nothing. Is Gabriel Davis “grabbing?” Yes he is. As noted in my article back in 2018 it’s not really just grabbing they’re looking for with these calls. There needs to be a “material restriction” on par with the three samples they note above. I just don’t see it.

Jacob Hollister holding call

I mean, maybe. There’s this teeny-tiny shove Hollister does that...maybe. Again, I don’t see it—and I’m a well-known defender of the refs. The closest thing to a material restriction I see is the hand on Hollister’s shoulder that helps pull him off balance.

This isn’t just taking a dig at the refs either. There’s not much reason for that in a preseason game where the Bills comfortably handled their opponent. Both calls seem hyper-sensitive to the players on offense and are a significant deviation from how this penalty has been called in the past. Hopefully it’s a case of it being preseason for the officials too, and not how things are going to be called when the games start counting.