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Penalty Recap: Bills vs. Patriots is a quiet flag affair

Likely the easiest article all week

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

The Buffalo Bills made us worry a good deal, but ultimately took care of business against the New England Patriots. Despite that and the much-longed for Miami Dolphins loss, the Bills aren’t sitting as pretty as we’d like. Win and in. Or lose and hope for an unlikely loss or two. I’m confident that’s all the analysis you’ll want this week on the playoff front, so with everyone sated on there, let’s discuss all six flags from this week.


Standard and Advanced Metrics

Penalty Counts

The big story here is that the league average for assessed count dropped by 0.10 flags per team per game, which is actually a huge dip for one week. Aside from that, the charts do a good job telling the story. Both teams were below average with no declined or offset flags. New England has the upper hand, but neither team is looking to be impacted by flags all that much this week.

Penalty Yards

The yards won’t dispel that notion either, with both teams comfortably below league average here as well. The Patriots didn’t negate any yards via penalty, so just the assessed for them. Buffalo negated eight, which is barely a blip.

Penalty Harm

New England Patriots

Surprisingly, the unnecessary roughness is the less interesting of the two. This was called on a blow to the head on tight end Dawson Knox while he was trying to make a catch, aka “protected.” The flag was on first down and it was the assessed yards only for 1.5 Harm.

The delay is only interesting in the theoretical result. The Patriots were lining up for a 53-yard field goal that the announcing team discussed as if it were missed. While that’s technically true, the flag is pre-snap so the attempt was nothing more than theater. Head coach Sean McDermott accepted the flag, which set the Patriots back five yards and led to a punt. Had the field goal try actually counted, it would have led to better field position for Buffalo.

That said, the delay of game was pretty egregious and the right call, so the try couldn’t count. Sean McDermott could have declined the penalty and rolled the dice that the Patriots would attempt, and miss, the field goal again.

The Patriots had 2.0 Harm between the two flags, which is not remotely a significant factor in the game’s outcome. I likely didn’t need to point that out.

Buffalo Bills

Safety Jordan Poyer’s unnecessary roughness call was for a late hit out of bounds. This was the right call. The Patriots had already picked up the first down and Poyer’s flag was half-the-distance to the goal only for seven yards or 0.7 Harm.

Tight end Dalton Kincaid’s false start was for a little twitch. This was also arguably the right call and another one that was yardage only.

Wide receiver Khalil Shakir was called for offensive holding on an 11-yard gain by wide receiver Stefon Diggs. This was called at the spot of the foul, which wiped out seven of the 11 yards. Shakir was encircling his opponent and clearly restricting movement, so this was a pretty clear call. The seven yards are added to the ten for purposes of Harm, which results in a 1.7 rating.

Fullback Reggie Gilliam was also called for holding on a kickoff return. It was also a spot-of-the-foul call and wiped out one yard of the return. That made it an 11-yard swing in all, or 1.1 Harm. On the call itself, Gilliam had his man by the shoulder pads and twisted his opponent for another clear call.

Buffalo had 4.0 Harm total. While that’s double the Patriots, it’s also safe to say that flags didn’t hold the Bills back either.


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