Penalties, penalties, more penalties. That's the NFL of 2015 thus far, and Sunday's Bills loss to the New York Giants was no different. 28 total accepted penalties later, and you have to wonder if this is quickly becoming the National Flag League.
Every team is getting flagged regularly, and while the calls were especially damaging to the Bills (losing 14 points on two calls), these calls happen all over.
The ones that are troubling are the personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct calls.
According to Rex Ryan on Sunday after the game, he was "proud of the way this team played." It's pretty clear that he's talking about the way they have continued to play with aggressiveness, and not checking out once a game seems lost. But that shouldn't be confused with type of "fighting" this team edged towards with the unforced errors taken in the waning moments.
Furthermore, Ryan instigated the media, painting the situation as if it was an unwarranted narrative sculpted by a prying press. The implication is that these needless penalties aren't nearly as problematic as reporters have asserted.
Sorry Rex, they are. Maybe it didn't affect the score against the Giants, but given Tom Coughlin's prescience regarding the Bills' thin skin, other teams have to be taking notice.
What happens when a future game gets close and things start going against the Bills? Can Ryan really sit there and pretend to believe Jerry Hughes will keep his cool in that kind of situation? You have to know that these officiating crews are listening to Hughes with hound dog ears, waiting for even the slightest slip of his tongue to nail him with 15 yards.
Kyle Williams remarked as much after the game on Sunday (from ESPN.com):
Meanwhile, defensive tackle Kyle Williams -- as level-headed as they come -- deflected some blame to the Giants and the officials, saying some flags were "provoked" and that the Giants knew they could "goad" Bills players into penalties.
We all can develop that feeling that the referees have it out for the Bills for whatever reason. Small market, lack of star power, grudge, bad weather. Certainly it's hogwash most of the time.
But I don't think it's wise to ignore the possibility that a reputation is being formed, that of the Hothead Bills. From Ryan's bragging about wanting to build a bully, to Hughes treating personal fouls like simple slaps on the wrist, something must be done about it. When your opponent prepares for you to lose your cool, it's a problem.
It's tough to write about this without it sounding like an overrreaction - especially after Ryan's dais-pounding ridicule of the heightened media scrutiny on Sunday. Sorry, ownership and the front office must expect better. Ryan is fortunate this has largely happened in garbage time when games were seemingly lost. The first time this costs the Bills a victory, it will be one time too many.
And the media's response should be, "We told you so, Rex."