Belichick wins savvy challenge, but refs' early whistle costs Pats a TD

The Patriots are lucky Ronnie Hillman made a crucial mistake, otherwise they might be in real trouble in Denver. With the Broncos coming to play in the AFC Championship Game (stream it on CBS here) New Engalnd could be in real trouble were it not for a dumb Hillman error and a savvy Bill Belichick challenge.

With the Broncos holding the ball on their own 22-yard line, Peyton Manning threw a pass to Hillman in the backfield. Hillman didn't catch the pass, which means incomplete pass ... except Manning threw it behind Hillman, which means fumble. 

The Patriots, because Hillman made zero effort to recover the ball, had a clear recovery but officials ruled it incomplete.

Belichick wisely challenged. It was a smart move, with Belichick winning easily and netting the Patriots the ball while flipping the field in New England's favor. 

The refs hosed the Pats by blowing the whistle -- letting the game go would've meant Jonathan Freeny waltzing into the end zone.

The Pats would score anyway, with Steven Jackson plunging in for a touchdown after a Tom Brady pass to Branden Bolden and a personal foul on T.J. Ward moved the ball to the 1-yard line. 

Just another playoff game and Bill Belichick being smarter than everyone else. 

Ronnie Hillman's gaffe costs the Broncos. (USATSI)
CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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