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Bills 35, Bears 13: Heavily skewed penalties against Buffalo in win

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the Buffalo Tickets played an often sloppy game against the chicago bears. They also managed to win by three points. I remember a time when matches played to their maximum potential resulted in defeats. I’ll take sloppy, but oddly dominant wins anytime.

Let’s get to the real show though. Penalties! There wasn’t a lot of controversy if I remember correctly, but there was a bit of goofiness, and that’s good for us as well.

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Penalties count


Watch. I do not know what to tell you. If you thought it would get better, it’s up to you. The title told you it was going to be unbalanced. It doesn’t matter what metric we use either. Harm, as you’ll see below, is theoretically less unbalanced, but… well, you’ll see.


chicago bears

Can also cover both Bears penalties. Why not? The call for too many men on the field was the distance of only five meters. It’s a bit weird, as it was in attack. You don’t see this one too often. To be precise, it was the 13th this season. The defensive variety is called about three times as often.

To find out how rare this is, here is a sampling of penalty types and how many have occurred this year:

  • Unnecessary roughness: 144
  • Intentional Grounding: 36
  • Defensive pass interference: 201
  • Offensive Holding: 528 (upper flag)

On the other penalty, remember that Harm is a red flag system to highlight penalties that made the game more difficult for the offending party. It’s not a direct relationship. I say this because Larry Borom’s flag was rated so poorly that it nullified a touchdown (a 7.0 automatic damage). However, the Bears scored a touchdown on that drive. To complete the formula, he was rated at 10 yards and canceled one more.

Let’s take a look at the before and after to see why I think the high rating still stands (and defend my stat, naturally). The play was Buffalo’s 1st and goal at the yard line. As noted, the Bears scored. It’s guaranteed points on the board. After the flag, it was 1st & Goal at 11. That’s a big difference. Now yes, the Bears could have scored in the very next game, which suggests it was no big deal. On the other hand, the Bills had a breath of life on the record. In this case, the Bears ended up scoring the 3rd and the goal of the six. It didn’t take away the score, but it did escalate.

Buffalo Tickets

For the most part, these were just irritating flags. None really stand out as a major harm level, with nine flags flying around the “yeah, that kinda sucks but not bad” level of the metric. On closer inspection, however, there is a certain craziness.

Two flags had the odd rounding error that sometimes occurs. Sometimes the location of the ball leads the referees to move the ball the distance you would expect, but due to where the ball was before and after, it is rounded play by play. I could technically credit the actual distance, but as far as I know, I’m the only one who’s ever called the NFL for this oddity – and I’m going to keep recording as often as possible to make myself feel cooler.

The two plays in question were on defensive end Kingsley Jonathan (offside) and cornerback Tre’Davious White (defensive holding). Both are five-yard flags, but were credited with six in the play-by-play. Jonathan was six yards rated and canceled a four-yard tackle for a loss for a total of 1.0 Harm. White’s is a bit wackier. He was rated for six yards, canceled out a three-yard gain and gave up two free tries. For the formula it is 0.6 – 0.3 + 2.0 = 2.3 Harm.

Most of the rest is explained by usual rated yards plus canceled yards. The illegal shift is odd though, as it wiped out a two-point conversion. You don’t see it too much, and it’s only the second time since doing this that I have to calculate it. On a touchdown, I would rate all negative downs and void distance. This would be in addition to the assessed distance and voided points. On a two-point try, you can’t keep the yards and there is no down. So that’s just yards and points rated for 2.5 damage. This took a point off the board, as Buffalo threw the extra point instead.

The last one I want to talk about was Ryan Bates’ ineligible flag, even though it was only rated at five yards. I want to discuss this one because of my love of analysis. How much do I love them? I’m so into analytics that you may have noticed that I invented a penalty scoring metric.

Analytics actually favors denying that penalty in these circumstances, and the Bears have proven they don’t read those recaps. It was 1st and 10th, and Josh Allen failed to complete a pass to Stefon Diggs. Buffalo was out of goal range. Option A: Accept the penalty for making it 1st and 15 (which the Bears did). Option B: Refuse the penalty to make it 2nd and 10th (which they should have done). Option A is three tries to win 15, meaning Buffalo had to average five yards per try to get the first one. Option B is two tries to gain 10 yards, also five yards per try.

Why is option B better, then? A few reasons. The first is volatility. Although both scenarios imply an average requirement of five meters per trial, sometimes they exceed the averages and sometimes they fall below. Obviously, if they fall below that, that’s great for Chicago. If the bills exceed them, that’s bad. Three chances to exceed expectations is not as good as two. Additionally, Buffalo averaged 6.65 yards per game against Chicago. This means they are likely to be first in both scenarios. To stop Buffalo in Option A, the Bears must hold Buffalo under their average three times in a row versus twice in Option B.

The second reason is simpler. Three creates more fatigue for the defense than two. You want your team to leave the field in defense as soon as possible, and option B is to play earlier (potentially). In case you were wondering, Buffalo gained nine yards on the next two plays.

Buffalo didn’t have a major flag, but still amassed 15.6 damage, which is firmly on the wrong side of things.

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