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Penalty Recap: Buffalo Bills vs Tennessee Titans

A lot more laundry than Week 1

I’m going to start Week 2’s penalty recap with an apology. There won’t be any GIFs this week for the following reasons:

  • High volume of flags meant increased time to write
  • Short week
  • I’m launching a new weekly feature that took some attention away from this project

With all that on the table, I’ll at least give one opinion on penalties right out of the gate, as I know everyone would be asking for it. Yes. The refs blew a couple offsides flags and called the Buffalo Bills for a false start instead.

Standard and Advanced Metrics

Penalty Counts

While Week 1 went pretty well for penalty counts for both the Bills and their opponent, Week 2 was very much not “pretty well.” Both teams were above the league average in assessed flags and true count (which adds in offset and declined). The Tennessee Titans had zero declined/offset. Buffalo had four declined.

For league average, the assessed flags went down slightly. The true-count average actually went up slightly, which is weird. That means more flags were called this week, but less counted.

Penalty Yards

Average yards assessed went down along with the assessed count. Despite a high penalty count, Buffalo managed to fall right at the league average. Tennessee was quite a bit higher than league average. True yards add in yards negated by penalty and the Titans again did worse than the Bills did, widening the gap between the two teams.

Penalty Harm

Tennessee Titans

I’ll apologize for the time crunch, as I’ll stick to just explaining a few of the higher ratings this week for the most part. Most of the flags were pretty straightforward with only a few having a story beyond yards. For any newcomers, my Harm stat looks to assess other factors beyond assessed yards. These include items such as negated yards, free downs given, points negated and more. Numbers are not intended to be absolute, but the higher the number, the more likely that penalty had an impact on the game.

For instance, wide receiver Josh Gordon’s offensive pass interference flag wasn’t just ten assessed yards. It wiped out a four-yard gain by running back Derrick Henry that had netted a first down (from second). For the rating that’s 10 yards + 4 yards + 1 down. Or 1.0 Harm + 0.4 Harm + 1.0 Harm to achieve that 2.4 Harm rating.

Cornerback Tre Avery was called for defensive pass interference. This was assessed at 13 yards and gave up two free downs (play occurred on third down). That’s 1.3 + 2.0 for 3.3 Harm.

The worst one of the day for either team was a face mask call on center Ben Jones early into the second quarter. Tennessee still had life with the game tied at seven. At midfield faced with 2nd & 11, Ryan Tannehill found wide receiver Robert Woods for 17 yards to extend a promising drive. The flag wiped out those 17 yards (1.7 Harm) along with the 10 assessed yards (1.0 Harm). It also wiped out the first down (1.0 Harm). The Bills clamped down and Tennessee couldn’t come away with anything on the drive.

Generally speaking, 10.0 Harm is a decent divider between a good day and a bad day. The Titans had 15.8 Harm, suggesting penalties were a problem.

Buffalo Bills

For the Buffalo Bills, a lot of little flags made it look like a bad day, but the reality is very few had any major impact on the team (which the scoreboard corroborates). An offensive holding call on Quintin Morris occurred on special teams. It was assessed at half the distance to the goal or four yards, but also negated a 12-yard return by Jamison Crowder. This happened in the fourth quarter when the game was already over—if you were interested on the timing.

A roughing-the-passer flag on defensive end Greg Rousseau was the worst one for Buffalo. In addition to the 15 yards, it gave the Titans one free first down.

The Bills had 7.1 Harm total. Despite a very high number of flags thrown, it didn’t really challenge Buffalo.