Winning is cool and all, especially against one of the league’s elite teams. But how did the penalty situation go down? That’s what all the cool kids want to know.
Standard and Advanced Metrics
Even though the Bills had higher-than-average Counts and True Counts, it feels like this is way too low. Also, not shocking to Bills fans is the fact that Kansas City had lower numbers using these metrics. For the league numbers, the true count went down a tiny amount, but the assessed count went a tiny bit up.
This might make us feel better. Despite higher counts than Kansas City, the Bills have significantly lower yards. When we factor in negated yards, the gap gets pretty absurd. The league average ticked up slightly just like the assessed count did.
I’m going to get one thing out of the way immediately. I’m not doing GIFs this week. Why is that, you ask? Usually I’m known as a ref apologist, and usually I vehemently defend that trait. Crews makes mistakes every game, I know that, and sometimes they even have a bad day. Once in awhile, though, the refs have themselves a “losing to Jacksonville with Urban Meyer at the helm” type of bad day. Brad Allen and company did that in this one.
If I were to closely look at all these calls, I guarantee you I’d find a few bad ones. Feel free to check with any other Buffalo Rumblings contributor to verify this, but I called out multiple Stefon Diggs “shoulda been” flags when he didn’t reset at the line completely before the snap. What I’m getting at is this: the answer is “yes.” If you thought you saw a bad call in this game, you’re probably right.
Let’s talk penalty harm. Most of these aren’t spectacular; with two flags declined and one offsetting, that’s already three at zero harm. Rodger Saffold’s false start was half the distance to the goal for two yards and negligible harm. Buffalo happened to score their first touchdown on this drive. And the half the distance was partially thanks to linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who was flagged on a punt that would have already had Buffalo backed up. His half the distance was for three yards.
Wide receiver Gabe Davis’s holding flag is semi-interesting. Holding is usually enforced at the original line of scrimmage, but sometimes it’s a spot foul like this one was. It wiped out five yards of a Devin Singletary run on top of the assessed yards.
Defensive back Siran Neal justifies the left-hand bars (red ones) this week. That’s reserved for counting how many penalties of the same kind a player had. It’s rare to be higher than “1” in a game. Neal got a stern lecture thanks to three defensive holding calls. Two were enforced. One was yardage only, but the other gave KC two free downs.
Despite a high volume of flags, Buffalo really wasn’t set back by them. They ended up with 7.0 Harm for the game, which is a pretty good day overall.
Kansas City Chiefs
Low count doesn’t always mean better. Penalty context and timing can be huge, and that’s what we have here. A false start doesn’t move the needle, and the taunting call from wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was yardage only. A trio of bad penalties escalate things to 12.0 Harm total on the day, which is above our 10.0 Harm cutoff for a bad day and significantly worse than Buffalo.
Center Creed Humphrey was called for being ineligible downfield. It wiped out an 11-yard gain and a first down from second. That’s 5 assessed yards + 11 negated yards + 1 negated down for a total of 2.6 Harm.
Safety Juan Thornhill was called for a 23-yard defensive pass interference flag. This also gave a free down to Buffalo to elevate it to 3.3 Harm.
Remember that Harm is intended to be a red flag system for the yellow flags. Numbers aren’t absolute to actual damage on the field, but higher numbers do a good job of showing us which flags had a greater chance at impacting the outcome of a game. Tight end Travis Kelce was called for offensive pass interference when the game was tied at 17. His flag negated a 31-yard catch by Kelce, in addition to the 10 assessed yards.
The catch brought the Chiefs all the way down to the Bills’ 11-yard line. The flag pushed them all the way to their own 48-yard line. Kansas City was able to work down the field for a field goal, but it’s not a stretch to think this may have been a four-point swing in the game.
Feel free to peruse the weekly trackers. The Bills had a fairly rough day. It was one of their worst this season. But compared to prior years, Buffalo has been doing pretty well (knock on wood).