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Penalty Talk: Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears — 2023 NFL Preseason, Week 3

The last of the watered-down penalty articles for the season

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

The next time you see my byline with a Buffalo Bills article containing the word “penalty” it’ll be a lot of data, explanations of rules, and charts. Before we get there, let’s take one last spin around the more casual block of neighborhood known as “The Preaseason.” The Bills bested the Chicago Bears in their final preseason tune up. Let’s chat a bit about how their penalty performance was and maybe discuss some expectations for the 2023 NFL season.

Bills at Bears Recap

The game was officiated by Ron Torbert’s crew, which I really enjoyed for two reasons. The first of which is that “Ron Torbert” is not pronounced “Land. ****ing. Clark.” The second reason being that most officials call the games pretty similarly, so what I worry most about with officials is how interesting they make the call. I enjoy Torbert’s enunciation and cadence. Side note: I was one of a handful of people sad that Jerome Boger retired after last season. That man knew how to call a penalty!

The Bills cleaned up their performance and only incurred two penalties for 20 yards. The Bears had a rougher go, with seven flags assessed for 57 yards. Though they had the higher count and yardage, in the grand scheme of things the Bears had a mostly average day.

For Buffalo’s flags, they were called for an illegal block and an offensive holding. The illegal block wiped out 13 yards of an 18-yard gain by James Cook. The play-by-play would call this a net loss of five (10 yards on the flag, but five Cook got to keep for his five yards gained). Once we start doing this for real, we’ll focus more on the negated yardage. Similarly, the offensive holding call negated an 11- yard carry by Damien Harris. Both calls also occurred on second down and wiped out what would have been a first-down gained.

The Bears had a few penalties of note. A defensive holding call negated a sack on Josh Allen and made their eventual touchdown a bit easier. A 19-yard defensive pass interference call helped the Bills move down the field. Buffalo was given three free-first downs by Chicago.

What to expect from the Buffalo Bills in 2023

The Sean McDermott era of the Buffalo Bills has been a breath of fresh air after the penalty-riddled Rex Ryan era. Wait, no. That’s not right at all. Ryan’s first year was terrible but then he had the team at pretty average. McDermott’s teams have fluctuated between average and pretty bad. The team’s winning ways have given some fans rose-colored glasses on the subject, but the reality is that the Bills lean more toward “penalty prone” than “clean football” with the current regime.

To be fair here, not all of that lies at the feet of the coach. Players can have an impact on penalty tendencies, as well. Let’s take a quick look at the most penalty-prone players from 2022. Maybe all the “bad eggs” aren’t on the team any longer.

Yeah. Don’t expect much change.

What to expect from me

If you’ve been here a while, first off... thank you. The avid penalty nerds like me are the reason this has gone on for as long as it has with Buffalo Rumblings. For the newcomers, I’m often accused of being a ref apologist — and that isn’t wrong by any means. I often take the side of officials, and I’m not shy about explaining why in my weekly recaps.

Here are both a promise and a challenge. If a call pissed you off or you can’t figure out what the refs were thinking, make sure you stop by here. You’ll find that it’s either been covered in the article already, or I’m happy to discuss it in the comments if not. I might not be able to convince you of my point of view (and I have been wrong once or twice). But I promise we’ll have a blast discussing it. Well, I guess I can only promise that I’ll have a blast. I hope you do too.

Last but not least, here’s a couple links that you might want to bookmark if you’re a penalty nerd like me.

Here’s a link to the 2023 NFL Rulebook. Here you can find the letter of the law on every on-field rule you can think of. It can be a bit daunting trying to find some things, but a lot of the common rules are easy to find using the embedded search tool.

This link can be found on the sidebar from the Rulebook page, but it’s often overlooked — so click on it now so you remember it exists. Even with rules in black and white, there’s often subjective elements to the rules. That applies to more than just the NFL, for the record. If you’re wondering: “Yeah, but what does that look like?” — you’ll want that link. It’s for the Video Rulebook. It cites the rules and gives visuals of what the intent is.

That’s it for now! Next time will be the real deal on penalty recaps. Hope to see you there.