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Buffalo Bills penalties: offensive line issues and the silent snap count

The Buffalo Bills - and their offensive line in particular - committed a lot of penalties in Sunday's loss to the Eagles. A predictable silent snap count, used for the entire game, may explain some of that particular issue.

The Buffalo Bills committed 15 penalties during yesterday's 23-20 road loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, with a handful more that were declined because the Eagles already had more than they needed to beat the Bills with. Buffalo's offensive line had a particularly bad day up front, committing seven penalties - and an eighth that was declined - as they struggled to deal with the Eagles' defensive line all day.

One possible reason that Philadelphia dominated the Bills in the trenches on Sunday? It was pretty easy to pick up on when Buffalo was going to snap the ball. The Bills, clearly anticipating a rowdy crowd in Philadelphia, opted to roll with a silent snap count for the entirety of the game, and they didn't change it up at any point.

The steps to the silent count:

  • Right guard John Miller looks into the backfield, waiting for Tyrod Taylor to lift and lower his leg
  • Miller turns forward, then extends his white-gloved left hand into the field of vision of center Eric Wood
  • Wood looks between his legs, raises his head back up, and snaps the football

There were probably a few exceptions, of course - Taylor did not spend his entire day in the shotgun, and the Bills can also vary the speed at which that entire process occurs - but on the overwhelming majority of their plays, that's what the Bills were doing to snap the ball. It was easy to spot early in the game, and it didn't change in the second half, despite the fact that most of the penalties occurred after the Eagles cottoned on. It made it easier for Philadelphia's line to play.

Buffalo's offensive line committed one penalty in the first quarter (a Miller hold), two in the second (a Jordan Mills false start and a Miller illegal use of hands), and a whopping five in the fourth quarter, which included holds on Wood, Miller (declined), and Richie Incognito, a facemask on Incognito, and a second false start call for Mills. Jerome Felton, like Mills, also had two false starts on the day, which is especially weird given the consistent predictability of the snap count.

More importantly, the Bills rushed for just 58 yards in the second half after accumulating 94 by halftime. The Bills also had 240 yards of total offense at the break, but only 172 in the second half - and that's including their third-quarter surge, which erased a 10-point Eagles lead and tied the game at 20-20. There's never really one reason for such things, and the Eagles had more going for them against Buffalo than simply adjusting to the Bills' silent count, but every advantage helps in this league.

Buffalo's offense has been intermittently brilliant this season, its first with Greg Roman calling plays for the likes of Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy, and Sammy Watkins. They have also suffered through many frustrating lulls, for simple reasons like the one you're seeing above. This is but the latest example of how the Bills' talented, exciting young offense needs to mature heading into the 2016 season.