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Penalty Recap: Bills at Eagles has me invoking the name “Hugo Cruz”

Trust me, that’s a meaningful name to remember

Indianapolis Colts v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

There are very few things that would get me to question a person’s fandom but if there’s one fast track to that, it’d be saying you’re not upset after a loss. If you’re not emotionally invested, I do think it’s hard to call yourself a “fan.” So yes. I’m upset about the loss. I’m overall happy with the performance of the Buffalo Bills as they took an incredible Philadelphia Eagles team to the limit. But I’m upset about the loss.

Of all my weekly features, the penalty recap is usually the one where I can set aside the results of the game and mentally have a bit of distance. As a result, this segment is usually fun for me even in a loss — and you may even think of it as a coping mechanism of sorts. This week wasn’t fun. I’ll only dabble in my formula. I don’t see any sense in GIFs. This will be more rant and negativity than anything else.


Standard and Advanced Metrics

Penalty Counts

I think the chart speaks volumes so let’s start off with one of those rants. One thing I rarely do is discuss penalties that WEREN’T called. You have seven officials tracking the activities of 22 incredibly fast human beings and interpreting a voluminous rule book. Things will get missed. It’s usually pretty even. For instance, yes the Eagles could have been called for more false starts than they already had, but I saw Dion Dawkins move early and not get called too.

This is one of the rare instances where I can’t avoid discussing no-calls. The green bars should be considerably higher and not just for a couple early twitches. Several impactful calls were missed. I’ll discuss a few specifics below.

Penalty Yards

The left side of bars seems pretty normal based on count. However, the true yards side counts yards negated/impacted by flags. Buffalo sees a 35% increase in yards when factoring this in. Philadelphia doesn’t move the needle at all. In just a moment we’ll start talking about what flags were thrown. It’s incredible to me that Shawn Hochuli and crew had no issue tossing a variety of flag types on Buffalo but seemed to only be on the lookout for one type when it came to Philadelphia.

Penalty Harm

Philadelphia Eagles

Yep. Three of the five penalties called on Philadelphia were false starts. The other two were a defensive pass interference that was offset by a Buffalo flag, and a very late shove on Josh Allen that was hard not to call. Though to be fair, they missed obvious calls all day.

The reason I didn’t make any GIFs this week isn’t because I can’t bring myself to look at the game again. So many of the missed calls were so obvious during the broadcast that I don’t think I have anything to prove.

In the second quarter Buffalo had the ball with a bit under five minutes to go in the half and had been rapidly moving the ball. On 2nd & 8 Josh Allen threw to Dalton Kincaid. While Kincaid was in the process of making a catch, he was hit pretty hard in his head/neck area by an elbow/forearm. Remember that receivers in the process of attempting a catch are protected. This wasn’t called.

No worries, right? Buffalo was fantastic on third down. Josh Allen fired a pass directly to Trent Sherfield. Whose right arm was being held and he couldn’t get both hands on the ball. This wasn’t called either. Fourth down. Punt.

On the following drive, Buffalo had a goal-to-go situation from the Philadelphia three-yard line. Allen was taken down by a very clear horse-collar tackle AND was spun around hard enough to tear his jersey. We’ll get to the other BS part of that play soon enough, but it should have been first down from the two-yard line.

That’s not to mention a late-game illegal block in the back on a punt that was missed, and if I really wanted to wrack my brain I know I could come up with some other missed calls.

Rather than discuss how the Eagles only had 4.0 Harm on the day, instead I’d like to point out that the reason there are seven officials on the field at all times is that every skill position player has an official dedicated to keeping an eye on them. The other TWO are responsible for what happens around the quarterback.

I would like to FURTHER note that per the NFL it is the expectation of the referee that she/he “Turns attention solely to quarterback as the defense becomes a threat.” That would be Shawn Hochuli. So for instance, if a defender has Josh Allen by the jersey, the ONLY thing Hochuli is supposed to be watching is Josh Allen. As noted above, the umpire is supposed to be assisting with this as well.

Buffalo Bills

Feel free to ask about the formula or specific penalties in the comments. It’s notable that there were enough flags where some of the names were being left off on the chart. I likely could have fixed it but this was at least one mildly amusing result of all this nonsense. To fill in the literal blanks, from left to right; Jordan Phillips was called for encroachment, Josh Allen for intentional grounding, Siran Neal for a face mask, Connor McGovern for offensive holding, and Rasul Douglas for defensive holding.

Douglas and Phillips were the only two flags that gave up free downs. Douglas’ flag came on third down and Phillips’ on fourth. Both were on the same drive, which ended with an Eagles touchdown. Douglas’ felt a little ticky-tack but neither were as bad as the no-calls mentioned so far.

The McGovern and Dawkins holding calls wiped out 18 offensive yards (13 and 5 respectively). Baylon Spector wiped out ten-return yards on a special teams flag. I felt the McGovern one was also ticky-tack. The defender fell down as if he were pulled, but live I wasn’t sure McGovern was actually pulling.

The intentional grounding on Josh Allen was called out as a bad flag by Tony Romo and I agree 100%. I don’t think I need to expand on this at all.

There was also the matter of a possible fumble in overtime that was called an incomplete pass. A similar play happened during Sunday Night Football and the crew and rules expert ruled that tucking the ball is an act “common to the game” and was sufficient to establish possession. I don’t necessarily mind the way this was called in the Bills-Eagles game as this is an instance where full speed creates some gray area. Well I usually wouldn’t mind. When you have as bad a day as Hochuli’s crew did, I’m not inclined to give the benefit of the doubt.

The Bills had 16.8 Harm for the day for anyone who still cares about the metric this week.

I’d like to close by referencing the name “Hugo Cruz.” It’s a name that outside this series and his family is mostly forgotten. It shouldn’t be. One common complaint is that NFL officials have no accountability. That’s not true. They’re reviewed after every game. However, incentives and reprimands occur mostly in the shadows. Except for Hugo Cruz.

Cruz was fired midseason for performance reasons. Most of what happens with officials is in the shadows. But there’s precedent to bring it into the light.