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Buffalo Bills 2022 penalty year in review: Trend Data

Let the nerd-stravaganza...BEGIN!

Tennessee Titans v Buffalo Bills Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Odds are good that if you care enough about penalties and data to have clicked on this article, you’ve already seen the 2022 Most Wanted article. But if not, here you go. We continue our annual review of Buffalo Bills penalties with a whole bunch of trend data. There is no way I can sell that any better. Again, if you read the title and clicked in anyway, you’re my target audience. Welcome nerds! You’re safe here.

I don’t credit enough. A ton of league data found below is courtesy of the site and year-after-year, the best collection of raw penalty data can be found here.

Quick-Hitter Stats

Nothing gets the blood going like some fast-paced bullets capturing the penalty performance of your favorite team!

The Usual Stats

  • Buffalo was good for 7.12 flags per game total with 5.67 of those counting (not declined or offsetting).
  • League average was 6.57 and 5.56, meaning Buffalo was mostly average, especially for the flags that counted.
  • For yards, Buffalo was called for 44.28 yards per game. League average was 45.65 so the Bills did alright there as well.

The Skarey Stats

  • Buffalo negated 239 yards this season or 13.28 per game. This could be from a negated run due to offensive holding, a negated sack from defensive offside, etc. This isn’t bad at all. Last season was 19.53 yards per game, for example.
  • Buffalo gave up 37 free downs this year compared to 61 last season. The 2021 season did include one more game, but as you can see there’s really not much comparison.
  • For Harm, the main proprietary stat, they had 148.1 this season (or 8.22 per game). That compares to 237.8 last year (13.21 per game). Our rule of thumb is that at 10.0 Harm you likely had a bad day.

Penalties by Type

Were you expecting a sortable table to follow along with my shenanigans? I hope so because here it is.


Row Labels Count of Penalty Sum of Penalty Yardage Sum of Yards Affected Sum of Downs Given Sum of Harm Rating
Row Labels Count of Penalty Sum of Penalty Yardage Sum of Yards Affected Sum of Downs Given Sum of Harm Rating
Offensive Holding 31 211 204 9 57.5
False Start 18 83 0 0 8.3
Defensive Holding 15 56 -17 11 14.9
Offside 13 37 20 3 8.7
Defensive pass inter. 9 130 0 6 19
Unnecessary roughness 6 47 0 1 5.7
Neutral zone 4 20 0 0 2
Ineligible downfield pass 4 10 0 0 1
Illegal block above waist 4 23 13 0 3.6
Encroachment 3 10 0 0 1
Face mask 3 34 0 0 3.4
Too many men on field 2 5 -6 0 -0.1
Illegal use of hands 2 5 8 0 1.3
Roughing the passer 2 30 0 1 4
Offensive pass inter. 2 10 10 0 2
Illegal shift 2 5 0 0 2.5
Horse Collar 1 4 0 0 0.4
Taunting 1 15 0 0 1.5
Illegal contact 1 5 0 0 0.5
Illegal formation 1 0 0 0 0
Delay 1 5 0 0 0.5
Disqualification 2 7 0 2 2.7
Roughing the kicker 1 15 0 4 5.5
Chop Block 1 15 7 0 2.2

What are some things that stand out? Frankly? Not a lot. Most of this is pretty much what you’d expect. Offensive holding dominates the counts, penalty yardage, affected yardage and Harm. This is in line with the league’s norm and has occurred every year I’ve been doing this with one exception, if I recall my own articles correctly.

For downs given, defensive holding edges out offensive holding but that’s the only measure where offensive holding isn’t the top dog. All of the above is in line with the Most Wanted list. Offensive linemen and defensive backs are your main pieces and the penalty types are 100% in line with that.

When it comes to affected yards, you’re reading that correctly. Two penalty types had negative affected. For defensive holding, this makes some sense. The free downs can be more valuable than a small chunk of yards. That characterized the Bills this season with multiple plays falling into this category. For too many men on the field, this was all due to the Detroit Lions. Jared Goff completed a six-yard pass on first down. The Lions preferred 1st & 5 to 2nd & 4.

Penalties by Phase

There’s always a few things that are simple curiosities and this is one I’ve been tracking for quite some time. Here’s how the various phases stacked up this season:

  • Offense - 59 flags (45.7%)
  • Defense - 58 flags (45%)
  • Special Teams - 12 flags (9.3%)

Wondering how Buffalo compared to the rest of the league? The league’s offenses committed 49.4% of penalties. That’s not too far off of Buffalo’s performance with the Bills doing a bit better. For defenses, the league was 36.6% and special teams were 14%. Or put differently, the Bills did pretty well on special teams (third best). They did not do as well on defense (third worst).

Penalties by Quarter

Here’s a new curiosity to ponder this year. This looks at total penalties (included declined/offset) to see if there’s any trend in potential “sloppiness” based on how far the game has progressed. As of me writing this paragraph, I haven’t actually looked at the data myself. This should be fun.

My expectation was that there wouldn’t be any sort of real trend to this but here we are. The third quarter sticks out like a sore thumb, maxing out every single measure of significance I have. I mean it’s glaring. Seriously, it’s so bad I really don’t think it needs explanation.

Not like the fourth quarter. That’s pretty similar in counts to the first and second quarter, but the yards are pretty jacked up compared to the first half. That should suggest that while the counts are similar between these three quarters, the penalty type in the fourth quarter is more severe. The Harm between the second and fourth quarter throws a wrench in the gears though, doesn’t it?

Maybe not. Tommy Sweeney’s super-mega-outlier flag that warranted 13.1 Harm was a second-quarter one. We don’t remove data, but if we did you’d see that the first and second quarters are very similar. That does mean that overall, fourth-quarter flags were worse than those in the first half.

And again, the third quarter was just spectacularly bad. Want me to make it worse? My friend does track penalty types by quarter here. League wide, the third quarter has the second least. In order of most to least, it’s second quarter, fourth, third, and the first quarter comes in with the least.

That should do it for this year’s penalty review, but if there are any lingering questions or things you think my spreadsheets can help with, feel free to ask in the comments!