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Penalty Recap: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills, Wild Card

Things really couldn’t have gone much better

The Buffalo Bills took care of business against the New England Patriots in a game that had historically good offensive statistics. Seven touchdowns in seven drives is great and all, but it’s time for the real fun! Let’s get to it.


Standard and Advanced Metrics

Penalty Counts

Both teams were below league average this week. The bigger talking point is the lack of offset and declined flags. Neither team had one. Don’t get too excited by Buffalo having lower counts than New England though.

Penalty Yards

See? Though both teams are again below average, it’s New England that looks better in this measure. The gap widens in the true yards columns as the Patriots didn’t negate any yardage in this game.

Penalty Harm

New England Patriots

The delay-of-game, false-start, and offensive too-many-men-on-the-field flags are pretty straightforward. The too-many-men penalty was officially assessed at four yards, which is one of those rounding issues that comes up from time to time. It’s also an incredibly rare flag. Only ten have been called. No one had more than one, except the Jacksonville Jaguars with three somehow.

Dont’a Hightower was flagged for illegal contact. As it occurred on first down it was yards only. I know I get a lot of crap for defending the officials, but this is an example of them being near perfect in real time.

A defender is allowed to initiate contact within the first five yards. Hightower initiates juuuuuust past the five-yard range. Defenders are also not supposed to be in contact when a receiver is “even” with them, which Dawson Knox is arguably reaching at the point of contact. One step to the side a half second earlier and Hightower’s contact goes uncalled.

Daniel Ekuale had the most impactful flag for New England with a face-mask call that was pretty well reviewed during the broadcast. It was yards only, but 15 yards was as bad as it got for the Patriots.

New England had 3.4 Harm total, which is a really clean day.

Buffalo Bills

Just three with no boo-boos, so let’s chat about each. For Dawson Knox, the line of scrimmage comes into play like above, but there’s only one yard where contact is allowable.

And he’s clearly beyond one yard. I counted 14 frames between Knox’s contact and Singletary touching the ball. That’s about two-thirds of a second. Note: All players on defense are considered to be eligible receivers so early blocking is a problem. Knox’s OPI was flagged for ten and negated seven yards for 17 total, or 1.7 Harm.

There was some chatter about the defensive pass interference on Levi Wallace being a bad flag as the ball might have been uncatchable. Here’s the broadcast angle...

And here’s the end zone angle from the All-22, which is shockingly already out.

The second angle really shows how close the pass was. It’s five yards away “vertically” and similar horizontally. If you trust my math/guess, that means the ball is about seven yards away total from the receiver. Is that uncatchable? Yes, but only “as is.” If Levi Wallace didn’t have ten yards of shoulder is it possible the receiver would have made it in time/adjusted? It’s very possible. This gave up 22 yards and two downs for 4.2 Harm, the worst flag by either team all game.

Finally, let’s look at A.J. Epenesa’s roughing flag.

There are two things to be aware of rule wise, the first of which makes this seem like a bad flag. Specifically, Epenesa has until the second foot hits the ground after the ball is released to initiate contact. It’s just a few frames, but the best look has contact occurring before the second foot falls. Secondly though, the way the rule is written there’s language that suggests anything too rough for the given circumstances should be called. Epenesa does give a little shove to finish this and he’s liable for knowing the ball is released. I don’t love this call, but it is 100% consistent with how we’ve seen it interpreted this year.

Buffalo had the lower count, but the DPI from Wallace is a major issue on Harm. The Bills had 7.4 Harm. That’s a pretty good day overall, just not as clean as New England.


Weekly Trackers

The biggest takeaway this week is Levi Wallace, who shot up six spots thanks to his defensive pass interference.