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Penalty Recap: Buffalo Bills reclaim the AFC East title with win over Miami Dolphins

For once I won’t pretend that the penalties were the most important part of the game

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

This is the part where I usually make some clever joke to insinuate that the thing we really cared about during the Buffalo Bills game was the penalties and the results were secondary. But for one week...

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

I guess some penalties occurred too. Let’s discuss them. And if you’re looking for my breakdown on a very controversial non-call, make sure to check out this week’s Skarey Movies.


Standard and Advanced Metrics

Penalty Counts

I’ll let the charts do the talking this week, with pretty straightforward results at least on the first couple. The big news for this season is that the league averages of 5.71 assessed and 6.78 true counts are up from the last year’s regular-season results.

Last season the NFL had 5.59 penalties per team per game assessed and 6.60 true count. The above aren’t huge leaps by any stretch of the imagination, but this is noteworthy as the flags had generally trended down the last few seasons. This shouldn’t be taken as a huge ripple but something to keep an eye on for next season. Not that we’re looking ahead to next season just yet.

Penalty Yards

It’s a very similar story in yards, with a slight uptick league wide this season from 46.1 penalty yards per game last season. For the charts, the Buffalo Bills impacted ten yards beyond assessed while the Miami Dolphins impacted six. Details on those are below.

Penalty Harm

Miami Dolphins

First the boring ones. The false start is as boring as these tend to be. The defensive holding from cornerback Jalen Ramsey occurred on first down and was the assessed yards only.

The two ineligible downfield flags are interesting because it’s been a point of emphasis this year, but two in one game isn’t a great look for Miami and their preparation. It’s also intriguing they were both declined. Another interesting fact is that head coach Sean McDermott must have been big into the analytics on the first one called on offensive guard Robert Hunt. The penalty on offensive tackle Austin Jackson was an easy call. On 3rd & Long the Dolphins weren’t remotely near converting so 4th & Long is better than a 3rd & Longer with another chance.

Back to the one on Hunt — it occurred on first down. Sean McDermott was faced with either 1st & 15 or 2nd & 10. McDermott chose 2nd & 10. The average NFL team gains 5.3 yards per play. The 2023 Dolphins gain 6.5 yards per play on average. Easy math.

The holding on offensive tackle Terron Armstead was assessed for four yards (half the distance to the goal) and wiped out a six-yard play. So it only looks like it’s the usual ten yards.

Now before I piss some of you off, the Dolphins’ total harm was 3.5 — which is basically an indication that flags were a non-factor in the game. In other words, the Dolphins lost the game all on their own. Additionally, it was totally DPI on what should have been a Dawson Knox touchdown to start the game. Now to make you angry.

Make sure to read this whole section, but arguably the flag on fullback Alec Ingold was a bad call. In order to be flagged for an illegal blindside block, you need to be traveling parallel or toward your own end line. Or in other words sideways or backwards from the line of scrimmage. Ingold was traveling toward the Bills’ end line, aka “forward” — which means this is the wrong flag.

Are you angry at me? That’s fine, I can take it. I would also add that unnecessary roughness can be called for anything that is obviously unneeded for the play and clearly aggressive. If you’re holding on to that thought for this week’s Skarey Movies... don’t. Ingold elevated and was clearly launching upwards, which is NOT a warding technique or a blocking technique. There’s no justification for the action based on what the players were doing. I think a roughness call was warranted there.

Note I’m not showing the play. You can find the replay yourself, trust me, or digitally give me the finger. They’re all good options.

Buffalo Bills

A good chunk of these don’t merit discussion. The false start by tight end Dawson Knox, delay of game, defensive holding (declined) by cornerback Dane Jackson, and offside by defensive end Shaq Lawson are all boring.

The defensive pass interference by Jackson was ten yards and occurred on first down. Not super interesting either, and from the broadcast replay looked warranted.

The holding call on Knox was ten assessed and ten negated — also pretty straightforward.

The encroachment by defensive tackle DaQuan Jones is the most interesting. It gave up a free first down from second. So how did the extra 0.6 Harm get in there? It’s a five-yard flag right? Yes it is. Sometimes the play-by-play rounds things and this is one of those cases. The refs spotted five actual yards, but the stats counted it as six thanks to rounding. Ha ha, wacky.

While the 6.1 Harm the Bills racked up was more than the Dolphins, this is a game that’s safe to say was not overly impacted by flags.


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