Tomase: Uh-oh ... Clete Blakeman refereeing Jaguars game, and he's been bad news for Patriots

John Tomase
January 17, 2018 - 11:58 am
Clete Blakeman and Tom Brady

Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports

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The Patriots don't play the Jaguars until Sunday, but it's never too early to start blaming the referees, and this weekend's assignments should send a shudder down the spine of Patriots fans.

Clete Blakeman's crew gets the game, and it's possible no ref has been tougher on the team's bottom line in the Tom Brady era.

Since becoming a referee in 2010 (and as noted by the outstanding Boston Sports Info Twitter account), Blakeman has presided over six Patriots games, and the Pats are 2-4. Add two prior games as a field judge, and the Pats are just 3-5.

These aren't run-of-the-mill losses, either. Remember the Jets overtime coin toss game? How about the picked-up flag against Carolina? Or the Richard Sherman, "U mad bro?" loss to Seattle?

All Blakeman.

Let's start with the most relevant. In 2013, the Patriots dropped a 24-20 decision in Carolina that was notable for a penalty not called. On the final play, Brady attempted to hit Rob Gronkowski from 18 yards out, but was intercepted at the front of the end zone. An obvious flag flew, however, when linebacker Luke Kuechly, with his back to the play, wrapped up Gronkowski and rode him straight out of the back of the end zone.

Blakeman conferred with his crew and picked up the flag, announcing there was no foul. TV cameras caught Brady F-bombing Blakeman as he left the field, an act which for which he later apologized. In a pool report, Blakeman said he considered the ball uncatchable, a dubious decision at best.

The penalties, for what it's worth, were basically even. The Patriots were flagged five times for 50 yards, vs. 7-47 for the Panthers.

Whether Blakeman played as big a role in the other losses is open to interpretation, but they were certainly memorable.

In October of 2012, the Pats journeyed to Seattle, where rookie quarterback Russell Wilson delivered his coming-out party as a potential star. The Patriots led 23-10 with under eight minutes remaining before Wilson threw touchdowns to Braylon Edwards and Sidney Rice, the latter a 46-yarder with 1:18 left to pull out the 24-23 victory.

That game ended with Wes Welker tackled two yards shy of a first down on fourth-and-17. The effervescent Sherman then took to social media with a photo of himself berating a dejected Brady with the "U MAD BRO?" caption that would be thrown back in his face two years later in the Super Bowl.

The penalty tally in this one: Patriots 6-80, Seahawks 4-35.

One of the weirder Patriots losses came in December of 2015, when a James White touchdown in the final two minutes forced overtime against the Jets. The Patriots won the toss and elected to defer, leading to rampant speculation that special teams captain Matthew Slater had lost his bearings and made a mistake.

It turns out that Belichick had wanted Slater to choose a direction, but the coin toss winner is only allowed to choose kick/receive or direction, but not both. Once Blakeman heard Slater say, "We want to kick that way," the rest didn't matter.

So the Jets received the ball and chose the end zone, and the game ended on Eric Decker's touchdown reception without the Patriots ever touching the ball.

The Pats were only flagged once in this game, by the way, vs. six penalties on the Jets.

The other games on Blakeman's resume aren't quite as memorable. In 2010, the traitorous Eric Mangini welcomed his former mentor to Cleveland, where the Browns romped to a 34-14 victory behind more than 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns from Peyton Hillis. The Pats were flagged three times for 20 yards, vs. 4-28 for Cleveland.

The two wins were basically unlosable, against lousy backup quarterbacks. The Pats crushed Tyler Palko and the Chiefs, 34-3, in 2011, and they smoked Brandon Weeden's Cowboys, 30-6, in 2015. Penalties did not play a factor in either game.

If we include Blakeman's games as a field judge, he witnessed two extremes in 2008. The Chargers crushed the Pats, 30-10, in San Diego that October in a game that nearly cost them Randy Moss, who was struggling to adapt to Matt Cassel and caught just three passes for 26 yards while recording a fumble. Two months later, the Cardinals rolled over in the snow as Cassel threw three touchdowns, including a 76-yarder to Moss, in a 47-7 cakewalk.

On Sunday, the Pats get Blakeman again. The home team only won 40 percent of his games this year (vs. the league average of 57 percent), though his crew called slightly fewer penalties than average. As we search for reasons the underdog Jags could pull out an improbable victory, the choice of ref is about as good as anything we'll come up with on the field.

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