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Penalty recap: Buffalo Bills at Carolina Panthers, preseason

Doesn’t seem like the refs wanted to be there

This is our last Buffalo Bills “penalty-lite” recap before the regular-season nerd fest begins. Which reminds me I still haven’t set up this year’s Excel workbook [cringe face emoji]. Oh boy—let’s hurry up and get this done so I can get to work on that!


By the Numbers

As a reminder, last season’s regular-season rates are our baseline for comparison purposes. That’s about six flags and 50 yards assessed per team each game. There are times where it seems like the refs have kind of checked out and Week 3 of the preseason seems like it might be a good candidate for that. Drum roll please.

Both the Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers had three assessed flags during the game—or half the baseline number. They both come in under half the yardage as well. Buffalo “racked up” more yards with 20 compared to 15 for Carolina.

What Stood Out

Carolina Panthers

Carolina managed to be boring in all three phases of the game, with three super minor procedural penalties mostly related to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There’s one odd trivia bit out of all this but that’s all you get for intrigue.

The penalties in question are a false start, a neutral-zone infraction, and an offensive offsides flag. That last one is the trivia bit. When the refs announce flags and when I write about them we usually just call it “offsides.” Technically we mean “defensive offsides.” The offensive variant is super rare and is usually on special teams. So not straightforward in the least.

Like I said. Three phases of the game. Three super boring penalties for five yards apiece.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills weren’t all that interesting either. Defensive end Boogie Basham was called for an offsides of his own. Ahem. Defensive offsides. Offensive tackle Tanner Owen was called for a false start. This is starting to sound an awful lot like the Panthers’ flags but there are a few things separating the teams.

The Basham flag gave Carolina a free play. Defensive end Shaq Lawson was credited for a zero-yard sack of quarterback Baker Mayfield on 4th & 4. What should have been a turnover on downs led to a fresh opportunity for the Panthers. For Penalty Harm that’s four downs given back to the offense in addition to the five yards for 4.5 Harm total.

Tight end Tommy Sweeney was called for offensive holding. Sweeney’s holding flag wiped out a nine-yard Duke Johnson run on second down that would have gained a first down. That’s ten assessed yards + nine negated yards + one down negated. In Harm terms that’s 1.0 + 0.9 + 1.0 = 2.9 Harm.

The other thing separating the Bills was the existence of a declined flag. A chop block on running back James Cook was declined thanks to quarterback Case Keenum’s pass falling incomplete on third down.

All right, that’s it for the preseason. Next time you see the penalty recap it’ll be chock full o’ charts!