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Referee explains why flag was picked up on late hit to Mac Jones in Patriots’ loss to Bills

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Buffalo Bills were able to reclaim control of the AFC East by rolling into Gillette Stadium and defeating the New England Patriots, 33-21. Given that the inside track to winning the division title was hanging in the balance along with this being one of the more bitter rivalries within the AFC East, it wasn’t too surprising to see things get rather chippy between these two squads at times.

One of the more controversial moments from this game came in the second quarter when Mac Jones scrambled up the right side of the field for a seven-yard gain. As the rookie quarterback was running out of bounds, Buffalo’s Jerry Hughs seemed to drag Jones down by the back of his jersey when he was already well out of the field of play.

Officials initially threw a flag for unnecessary roughness, but then elected to pick it up following a discussion amongst the crew.

“What we ruled was, we had contact on the sideline,” referee Shawn Smith told pool reporter Mike Reiss of ESPN. “And after discussion, we determined that it was incidental contact that didn’t rise to a level of a personal foul. There was no second act by the defender in that situation, so we determined there was no foul, based on that action.”

Smith also noted that there was “zero” influence from New York during that discussion.

That picked-up penalty came just one play after Buffalo’s Efe Obada was flagged for a roughing the passer infraction on Mac Jones, which gave New England a new set of downs and moved them to their 40-yard line.

“I mean, it’s football,” Jones said of the picked-up flag. “You’re going to get hit. It’s not our job to figure out what it was, a flag or wasn’t. It’s the refs’ job, that’s why they’re there. It’s just one of those plays. At the end of the day if you get positive yards, then it’s a good play. That’s really all there is to it.”

At the time, the Patriots were trailing the Bills by 10 and that picked up flag was where the wheels started to fall off on the drive. On the following play, Trent Brown was called for a deflating unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that moved New England into a second-and-18 situation. That would eventually result in a punt and they’d go into the halftime locker room down double digits.

Meanwhile, Smith was also asked about a questionable taunting penalty that was called against Patriots center David Andrews in the fourth quarter. Bills linebacker Matt Milano was flagged for unnecessary roughness on hit to Jones and it appears that Andrews was going into the scrum to defend his quarterback. However, Smith’s crew felt like that escalated the situation.

“After we had the foul for the dead ball personal foul on the Buffalo defender, we had the situation under control and then the New England player got into the face of the opponent and started yelling,” said Smith. “So, we had a taunting foul.”

That offset Milano’s penalty but didn’t prove to be as consequential as the earlier infraction as the Patriots would still score a touchdown later in that possession.

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