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Penalty recap: Washington Football Team at Buffalo Bills

Some changes this week

Another week, another convincing victory. Ordinarily this would be the place where I’d overinflate the importance of penalties in humorous fashion, but this week let’s do something different. A shout out to the regular readers of this weekly segment.

Thank you all for sticking with it over the years. As one of the most niche topics there is, I don’t think this feature would exist anywhere else except Buffalo Rumblings where deep dives like this are embraced. Your enthusiasm feeds my enthusiasm, and with that in mind—keep an eye out for some changes this week.


Standard and Advanced Metrics

Penalty Counts

For the most part both teams were neck and neck, and both under league average. The big difference is that the Buffalo Bills had two declined penalties and the Washington Football Team had none. Both declined flags occurred on the same play as one that was accepted, making this a bit odd. Overall this enhances the similarity between the two teams. What I specifically mean is that, while the Bills had two more penalties overall, both teams had flags on five plays. That means team performance was effectively the same with the difference being individual performances.

We’re far enough into the year where league trends are starting to become meaningful. Both counts and true counts dropped about 0.4 penalties per team this week, which is a pretty drastic dive. We’re still above 2020 league averages, but the league likely won’t reach it’s plateau for a while yet (and 2020 was a weird penalty season).

Penalty Yards

The mirror match continues in both of these metrics, which is unusual. Both teams were well under league average and pretty close in assessed yards. Buffalo negated 51 yards, and WFT negated 52. In all these metrics the performances are very similar. League average dropped about two yards per team, and like counts likely will fall further in the coming weeks.

Penalty Harm

Washington Football Team

First off, because of reasons that will soon be apparent, there are no GIFs this week. I don’t know if I could have picked a better week for it as usually the GIFs are reserved for controversial flags and there really weren’t any that stood out to the point of begging for attention. That said, there are only a handful here so let’s do ‘em all.

  • Former Bill, Logan Thomas was called for offensive holding. He wiped out seven yards on first down. The assessed yards were half the distance to the goal for five yards. 7 + 5 on yards = 1.2 Harm.
  • John Bates was called for holding on a kickoff. It was ten assessed yards, and wiped out seven yards of a 19-yard return.
  • On 3rd & 8, William Jackson III was flagged for defensive pass interference. The eight yards of penalty combined with two free downs for 2.8 Harm.
  • J.D. McKissic’s flag was an early back breaker. This one occurred on 3rd & 2, with a Taylor Heinicke pass going for 16 yards. It wiped out those yards and the two downs of course with ten assessed yards to boot (4.6 Harm total). Washington was unable to convert on 3rd & 12.
  • Heinicke had the worst flag of the day for the Football Team. The illegal forward pass was only assessed for five yards. However, it also wiped out 22 yards through the air. The play had earned a first down (from second) which adds 1.0 Harm. It also results in a loss of down for another 1.0 Harm. For the full rundown that’s: 5 yards + 22 negated yards + 1 down negated + 1 down lost = 4.7 Harm.

Remember that 10.0 is a pretty good cut off point between a good and bad day. Washington had 15.0 Harm total, which puts them in “bad day” territory. This is despite low counts and low assessed yards.

Buffalo Bills

We’ll go through these as well, with the exception of the false start flags. We’d rather not see those of course, but there’s not much story to tell.

  • Jordan Poyer was called for illegal contact late in the game. The five yards assessed pairs with the automatic first down (from second down) to hit 1.5 Harm.
  • Tyler Matakevich was called for offensive holding on a punt. Isaiah McKenzie had returned the ball 33 yards. This was called as a spot-of-the-foul infraction so McKenzie was credited for 15 of those yards. Add in the assessed yards on this one and McKenzie’s big gain of 33 was pushed back 28 or those yards, or 2.8 Harm.
  • The big one of the day though was on Taron Johnson. The illegal contact on the starting slot corner was assessed at five yards using official stats so no big deal, right? The play didn’t give any free downs to Football Team as they were already on first down. But, it did wipe out Johnson’s own interception that was returned for 33 yards. Negated turnovers are treated as four downs of lost opportunity. Add up the loss of that with the loss of the big return and this was a major flag. At the time, Buffalo was only up by ten. A Washington score right before the half would have made this a close contest going into the break.
  • Jerry Hughes and Tremaine Edmunds were also flagged on the play. This is pretty interesting to sort out for potential harm. Edmunds’s defensive holding could have been accepted and would have had the same result as the illegal contact as it occurred before the pass was thrown. Hughes’s penalty on the other hand occurred during the return and would have wiped out a portion (or all) of the return, but not the interception itself.

Despite the massive harm on the Taron Johnson flag, Buffalo’s total rating landed at 13.1, which is still on the wrong side of things. And come to think of it, still in the neighborhood of WFT’s day. No matter how you slice it, the two teams had similar penalty performances.

Weekly Tracker

Here’s what I was doing instead of GIFs. As requested by reader racerex, here are three charts to show weekly progress from the Bills. I tried to make these graphics as clean as possible, but still showing key metrics. The red line in each is intended to be the most important one. Let me know if these are meaningful as they’re easy to continue now that the graphs are set up. I’ll be looking into a worst offender chart to add in as well. Maybe next week.