On Sunday, the New England Patriots will play the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game. Yesterday, it was announced that Clete Blakeman will serve as the referee for the contest – marking the first time in over two year that he calls a Patriots game (he was an alternate last week, though). Officiating expert Cameron Filipe of Football Zebras wrote the following about the 53-year old:
Clete Blakeman [...] is in his 10th season and 8th as referee. This is Blakeman’s 7th postseason assignment and his first conference championship; he also has worked 3 Wild Card Playoffs, 2 Divisional Playoffs, and Super Bowl 50, his most recent playoff assignment.
As noted above, Blakeman has not called a Patriots game the last two seasons – his last assignment was New England's 26-20 overtime loss against the New York Jets during week 16 of the 2015 season. The veteran was the referee for five more New England contests before that and the team has an overall record of 2-4 when he is managing the whistle. Interestingly enough, Sunday's game will only be Blakeman's second assignment at Gillette Stadium.
With Blakeman making calls, the Patriots were flagged an average of 6.8 times per game for a loss of 40.3 yards. The most famous of his flags, however, is one that was picked up: During a Monday night game against the Carolina Panthers in 2013, Blakeman decided to reverse a pass interference call against Rob Gronkowski in the final moments of the game. The penalty would have given the Patriots one last shot at winning the game from the Panthers one-yard line.
Over the course of his career as a referee, Blakeman also called seven Jaguars games. On average, the team was flagged 5.1 times per contest resulting in a loss of 42.7 yards. Blakeman officiated one of Jacksonville's games this season: During the team's 27-24 defeat against the Arizona Cardinals in week 12, he flagged the Jaguars five times worth 45 yards.
The game's entire crew of officials – as usual an all-star ensemble based on a regular season grading system – looks as follows (original crew of each member in parenthesis):
R 34 Clete Blakeman
U 11 Fred Bryan (Jeff Allen)
DJ 28 Mark Hittner (Craig Wrolstad)
LJ 79 Kent Payne (Carl Cheffers)
FJ 50 Aaron Santi (Ron Torbert)
SJ 109 Dyrol Prioleau (Clete Blakeman)
BJ 112 Tony Steratore (Jerome Boger)
Replay: Carl Madsen
Alternates: John Parry (R), Patrick Turner (DJ), Greg Gautreaux (FJ)
One name that stands out on the list above is Dyrol Prioleau. The side judge was part of the AFC Championship Game between the Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts three years ago – playing a key role in the ensuing Deflategate farce as one of the referees to measure the air pressure inside the footballs during halftime.