Shawn Smith's officiating crew had some explaining to do after making a couple of controversial calls in Sunday's New England Patriots-Buffalo Bills matchup.
Late in the second quarter, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones ran out of bounds before taking a late hit from Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes. The officials threw a flag, but they picked it up after discussing the play and ruled there was no penalty.
The reversed call sparked plenty of bewildered reactions from Pats fans throughout Gillette Stadium and the Internet. Smith attempted to explain the picked-up flag after the game.
“What we ruled was, we had contact on the sideline,” Smith said in a postgame pool report, via ESPN's Mike Reiss. “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 clarified why David Andrews was given a taunting penalty in the fourth quarter. The Patriots center came to Jones' defense after a late hit by Bills linebacker Matt Milano.
“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.”
Patriots fans probably won't take kindly to that "incidental contact" explanation, but the reversed call was just one of many lowlights during Sunday's defeat. It was a rough day at the office for Jones as the rookie quarterback completed only 14 of his 32 passes for 145 yards and two interceptions.
New England's loss puts Buffalo back atop the AFC East with the divisional record tiebreaker. That means the Patriots will have plenty at stake in their final two regular-season games vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins.