Why Patriots-Bills Referees Reversed Late Hit Penalty Against Mac Jones

'We determined that it was incidental contact'

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December 26, 2021

FOXBORO, Mass. — Referee Shawn Smith didn’t believe Jerry Hughes’ sideline takedown of Mac Jones warranted a penalty.

After Jones’ New England Patriots lost to the Buffalo Bills 33-21 on Sunday at Gillette Stadium, Smith explained why his officiating team reversed its initial call of unnecessary roughness against Hughes.

“What we ruled was, we had contact on the sideline,” 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 said he had “zero” assistance from the NFL officiating headquarters in New York on picking up the flag.

Hughes grabbed Jones’ nameplate as the Patriots quarterback scrambled out of bounds late in the first half. During the ensuing discussion, Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for jawing at a Bills defender, turning a second-and-3 into a second-and-18.

Jones was asked after the game whether he believed Hughes should have been penalized.

“I don’t really know,” he replied. “I just ran and got out of bounds. I don’t know what happened from there. Just my knee brace kind of did a little thing there, so I was just trying to get it off. There was nothing, I mean, there was nothing more to it.”

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had no comment on the no-call.

“Yeah, talk to (the officials) about that,” Belichick said.

Later in the game, Bills linebacker Matt Milano was flagged for a late hit after tackling Jones while he slid. But that penalty was negated when center David Andrews stepped in to defend his QB and was whistled for taunting.

Smith also offered an explanation for Andrews’ penalty.”

“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,” Smith said. “So, we had a taunting foul.”

Jones had one of the worst statistical games of his career Sunday, completing 14 of 32 passes for 145 yards and no touchdowns with two interceptions.

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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