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Referee explains controversial decision to pick up flag after late hit against Patriots quarterback Mac Jones

Related: Patriots vs. Bills: New England’s defense shredded in 33-21 loss to Buffalo

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

Late in the second quarter of their Week 16 matchup with the Buffalo Bills, the New England Patriots were in a position to cut into their 17-7 deficit at the time the team had reached its 47-yard line, and Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes was just flagged after taking quarterback Mac Jones down out of bounds.

The likely unnecessary roughness call that was to follow would have added 15 yards and given the Patriots a new set of downs at the Buffalo 38. With 1:22 left in the game, there would have been plenty of time left to score a touchdown or at least a field goal.

Only problem was that the flag was eventually picked up:

After the game, referee Shawn Smith explained why he made the decision to pick up the flag.

“What we ruled was, we had contact on the sideline,” he said according to the pool report. “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.”

To make matters worse for New England, offensive tackle Trent Brown was flagged for taunting just a few moments later. Instead of the Patriots getting the football in Buffalo territory, they faced a 2nd-and-18 at their own 32-yard line.

New England ended up punting the ball back to its division rivals. The Patriots eventually fell 33-21 to the Bills.