This was the third Buffalo Bills game that featured Land Clark and his ragtag crew of officials. The first two had questionable calls. Questionable NO-calls. And who can forget the flat-out oddities like a lowering the head flag on a running back or calling a flag not only on the wrong team but on a player who was inactive. How did round three go? Let’s just say Land Clark never disappoints. Or is it always?
Standard and Advanced Metrics
The Bills, as they have much of the season, had more penalties than average for both called and assessed. The Atlanta Falcons ended up below league averages in both counting measures. Additionally, the last time the Bills had Land Clark officiating I said we had likely reached a plateau of penalties at 6.31 per team each game. The flags have drifted lower than I anticipated for league averages.
It’s no surprise to see the Falcons under the league average for assessed yards, but it is mildly surprising to see Buffalo as well (though not as much). With negated yards factored in, the Falcons also narrowly “beat” the Bills in the dubious “True Yards” stat.
A couple of these are ho-hum so let’s get them out of the way. The delay of game was pretty clear cut and probably intentional to give their punter more room. Jalen Mayfield’s holding call was declined due to Matt Ryan getting sacked on the play. Speaking of Jalen Mayfield...
The ineligible downfield was NOT declined and it was NOT offset. It occurred on the same play as the roughing call on Ed Oliver (we’ll take a look at that one below). By rule, a five-yard flag cannot be offset with a 15-yarder. The “minor” penalty is negated and the “major” one is enforced. This is the right call by Clark’s crew but it’s just so weird to see it actually happen. So of course we see it with Land “Effin” Clark on the field. I don’t think that’s his actual nickname, but it’s what I’m going with.
That pair is in contrast to Shawn Williams’s unnecessary roughness for his scary hit on Stefon Diggs. That one offset with an illegal crackback on Dawson Knox. Speaking of odd, when’s the last time you saw a crackback called? Knox’s was only number four on the season and it was probably legitimate. Just really rare and a bit wacky. Land Clark, man. Land “Effin” Clark.
And we haven’t even talked about Matt Ryan yet. The illegal forward pass wiped out 24 yards, one down, and the five yards it was assessed at for 3.9 Harm. Matt Ryan technically gets to keep the one yard rushing that made his pass illegal in the first place, which is humorous to me.
But nowhere near as humorous as the taunting flag. No need for me to recap that one, but I’m still laughing. Trash talking Jordan Poyer about a touchdown he never scored. Giving yourself up with a head-first dive has been on the books, but it’s yet another “don’t see applied like that very often situation.” For the purpose of this article, the flag was assessed yards only as technically the FLAG didn’t negate a touchdown, Matt Ryan’s terrible decision to slide toward the end zone did.
How weird is it that a 3.2-Harm-rated defensive pass interference is one of the LEAST interesting flags to talk about. Land. Effin. Clark.
The Falcons racked up 9.1 Harm in total, which is a pretty “meh” penalty performance.
The offsides on Jerry Hughes is straightforward, as was the offsides on Taiwan Jones, the neutral-zone infraction on Eli Ankou, and the ineligible downfield call on Spencer Brown. If you have questions on those, let me know in the comments. The holding call on Taron Johnson was declined thanks to a nice chunk play by the Falcons and also isn’t one I think needs a better examination.
The illegal shift on Gabe Davis wiped out four yards in addition to the five assessed for 0.9 Harm. It was also a good call as Davis changes his spot on the line and doesn’t come to a full stop before the snap.
The pass interference on Jordan Poyer is a classic Land Clark head-scratcher. As called, it was a seven-yard flag that gave up two downs and kept the Falcons’ drive alive. Jordan Poyer was at least ten yards away from... Well, everybody. Taron Johnson is likely who they meant as he was seven yards deep and getting grabby. The flag was warranted, just not called on the right guy. Making it even more funny, Poyer is the only change in the Most Wanted list below and he didn’t even do anything. Land “Effin” Clark.
Finally, let’s take a look at that roughing-the-passer call on Ed Oliver.
I don’t like this call. Before I explain why, I’ll defend Land Clark on this one. I don’t like it, but it’s 100 percent consistent with how we’ve seen this called all year. Defenders can make contact “through” their first step after the ball is released. Once the second step touches the ground it’s a flag. The rule, though, is that the defender “must be making an attempt to avoid contact.” I think Ed Oliver is. Despite the attempt, forcible contact is supposed to be called so I suppose that’s why these are getting called but I know a lot of people (myself included) who really don’t consider this forcible.
Buffalo, drum roll please, had 7.9 Harm total. Despite a higher count and assessed yardage, the proprietary stat you’ll only find here says that the Bills had a cleaner penalty game than the Falcons. Because Land Clark, that’s why.