Hey everyone, did you hear that the Miami Dolphins scored 70 points in a single game? This under-the-radar storyline from Week 3 in the NFL didn’t contribute to any hype for the visiting team this week. Because something like that wouldn’t make a 48-20 drubbing all the more sweet for fans of the Buffalo Bills. Nope. Not at all. In fact, I’m pretty confident the only real story line to talk about this week is the penalties.
Standard and Advanced Metrics
A few narratives are going to change this week. The Buffalo Bills remain fairly clean with counts and true counts (includes offset and declined). On a per-game basis, they’re the third-best team in the league avoiding flags — which is a major departure from previous teams during the tenure of head coach Sean McDermott.
The Dolphins’ data suggests they had a larger issue with penalties this week. I have nothing to dispel that notion.
Yards often gives us the first hint of impact via penalty. Not every flag is the same, as you’ll see below. Some of them are assessed for five yards, while some might flip the field in an instant. I think this chart covers things for the most part. The one oddity that you’ll get a better explanation on below is that yes, the Bills actually had impacted yards that were “negative.” I don’t tend to think of this as actual negative, yardage, but more like mitigated harm. Or Harm if it’s in this article.
First things first, I’m battling a cold among other things so I might miss talking about a fun penalty. Yell at me in the comments. I’m going to take a ton of medicine and sleep through all the abuse anyway. I mean, uh... I’ll get back at you in the comments. This also means no GIFs this week. It’s a good week for it too, as most of the flags were pretty straightforward. I’m also going to do some of these rapid-fire, but don’t worry, I got your back on a question I saw during the game in the Bills’ section.
The vast majority of these were pretty straight forward. If it’s a zero it was declined. Elijah Campbell’s holding flag was on a punt, which set the ball back ten yards. It didn’t impact any of the yards on the return.
The illegal formation wiped out a two-yard gain on top of the five assessed (0.5 + 0.2).
Kader Kohou was flagged for two big ones. The unnecessary roughness call tacked 15 yards onto a chunk play from Josh Allen to Stefon Diggs. It was yardage only. The defensive pass interference also came while covering Diggs and cost the Dolphins 43-yards.
But most damning was Liam Eichenberg moving forward just a bit too far on a passing play. Jaylen Waddle scored an eight-yard touchdown on the play. For new readers, when a score is wiped out, it gets one point of Harm for each point removed In the case of touchdowns, I assess seven as the try kick is pretty automatic for the most part. I also assess the yards lost, as the team was advancing the ball and some penalties can be spot of the foul rather than spot of the original play.
That’s a long way to say that Eichenberg’s flag included; 5 assessed yards, 8 negated yards, and 7 negated points. That translates to 0.5 + 0.8 + 7.0 = 8.3 Harm. I do want to clarify that Harm is a “red flag” system about yellow ones. Often a team can make up for their mistake, so Harm reflects potential issues. I’ll admit that 8.3 is a bit heavy-handed if the team scores a touchdown anyway. It seems about right though when they fail to score at all after something like this — which is exactly what happened to Miami.
The Dolphins totaled 16.8 Harm. Our cutoff between a good and bad day is 10.0 Harm. Miami had a very rough day on the back of a couple terrible flags.
No one is probably all that worried about the defensive offside calls on Shaq Lawson and Tre’Davious White (best wishes Tre). Or the declined illegal contact on Dane Jackson.
The illegal formation on David Edwards is one maybe to discuss. The flag set Buffalo back five, and wiped out another five accrued on a run by Damien Harris. This occurred when the game was tied at 14, so this could have been a problem. It wasn’t though, as Buffalo scored on the next play.
Leonard Floyd’s offside is the wacky one with “negative” yardage. This negated the forced fumble by Matt Milano that was recovered by Greg Rousseau. I assess downs like points, each one counts for 1.0 Harm. For negated turnovers, you cost your team four downs (even a punt can be advantageous in the long run) for 4.0 Harm. The flag also was assessed for five yards. The Dolphins had gained ten on the play (3rd & 22). By accepting the flag they pushed themselves back the ten they had gained. All told it was 3.5 Harm, the highest for the Bills in this game.
Buffalo’s total harm was 5.5, well under our bad day rule of thumb. Now for the moment you’ve been waiting for.
Why wasn’t a roughing the passer flag called on a certain hit Josh Allen took? There’s only one part of the definition for this penalty that’s really subject to debate. I’ll get to that in a second. You need contact to the head or neck area. Check. It needs to be against a protected player. As a QB who had just thrown the ball, also check. It has to be “forcible” contact. That’s the subjective part. I’ll let you decide if it was or wasn’t forcible, but that’s likely why it wasn’t called.
You know I never shy away from an opinion, even if I think I’ll get beat up on it. I can see it honestly. Josh Allen wasn’t hit all that hard and definitely flopped as far as I can tell. I’m not shaming that either, a bit of acting is part of the game.