The Buffalo Bills took down the New England Patriots to lock up the No. 2 in the AFC Playoffs. This is usually where I’d make some joke about how penalty data is way more important and interesting about the result and things like Nyheim Hines scoring two kick return touchdowns. Sadly, Clay Martin and his officiating crew didn’t really feel like throwing any flags until the fourth quarter. Oh well, we got a couple GIFs anyhow.
Standard and Advanced Metrics
I mean...do I even need to say anything here. The league average ticked every so slightly down this week. Perhaps Clay Martin’s officiating helped that a bit.
When you don’t have a lot of penalties, you tend not to have a lot of yards either. There isn’t even a wild defensive pass interference to throw things off. The negated yards are also barely a blip. With so few flags, we’ll cover them all below.
New England Patriots
This shouldn’t take long. Center David Andrews was called for offensive holding during an incomplete pass on 1st & 10. There was nothing negated or impacted beyond the assessed yards.
Also on 1st & 10, tight end Hunter Henry was called for offensive pass interference. In addition to the ten assessed yards, he negated a six-yard completion from quarterback Mac Jones to wide receiver Jakobi Meyers.
Both flags combined for 2.6 Harm, which is an excellent penalty day. Now let’s look at something actually interesting.
There were a lot of questions early on in the game from those wondering why this wasn’t flagged for a horse-collar tackle. There’s an exemption when it comes to runners in the tackle box and quarterbacks in the pocket with horse-collar tackles. In other words, it’s legal. For quarterbacks, if they ever leave the pocket they’re protected. So what counts as the pocket? It’s the area formed by the tackles, extending all the way back to the end zone behind the offense. Allen zigs and zags a bit, but to me it looks like he stays in the pocket.
They did miss a face mask on this play, however.
Two flags were declined. Cornerback Tre’Davious White was called for defensive holding but a 17-yard pass to wide receiver DeVante Parker seemed like the better outcome. Similarly, while cornerback Siran Neal was called for an illegal block in the waist, this was on the punt where Buffalo was blocked into the rolling ball, creating a “muffed punt” and turnover. There’s no way the Patriots wanted that overturned.
On cornerback Kaiir Elam’s holding call, he was flagged for five yards. New England had gained five yards. By Penalty Harm rule, those distances canceled each other out for 0.0 Harm. However, the play occurred on second down, meaning Elam gave up one down for 1.9 Harm.
Running back James Cook was called for a weird chop block that was assessed for 15 yards and negated seven for 2.2 Harm. Let’s take a look and discuss the rule.
Traditionally, a chop block is two players engaged with the same defender at the same time, with one player going high and the other low (with the waist as the dividing line). I suppose technically left tackle Dion Dawkins goes high with Cook going low on what would otherwise be a legal cut block. I guess.
There are some weird subclauses to the rule. If Dawkins acted like he was luring in the defender for a low block, or if he engaged first, disengaged and then Cook did this, there’s some room to call this a more definitive chop block. I don’t see either of those situations so the best guess remains that the shoulder tap by Dawkins was counted as going high. Technically correct.
The Buffalo Bills had 3.2 Harm, which is also an excellent day.