Conspiracy theory alert! Referee congratulates Tom Brady after Patriots beat Jaguars

Tom Brady
Photo credit David Butler II/USA Today Sports

If you're looking for reasons to believe the fix is in and it favors the Patriots, NFL referee Clete Blakeman provided some grist for that conspiratorial mill on Sunday.

As the final seconds ticked off New England's 24-20 victory over the Jaguars in the AFC title game -- a contest in which the Jaguars were flagged six times for 98 yards vs. just one penalty for 10 yards on the Patriots -- an eagle-eyed tweeter noticed that the first man to congratulate Patriots quarterback Tom Brday wasn't a teammate or even an opponent, but Blakeman.

The referee tapped Brady on the back and then patted him on the chest as if wishing him luck before walking away. Blakeman's presence had been a cause of minor consternation among Patriots fans -- the Pats were just 2-4 with him as ref.

Rather than reveal a vast conspiracy, the gesture was more likely one of sportsmanship and respect. Blakeman, a former Nebraska quarterback, is probably as amazed as the rest of us at what Brady's been able to do at age 40 and just wanted to acknowledge it. After all, he had a better view than any of us.

First guy to congratulate Brady? Number 34. What a teammate!

— OurState_CSU (@OurStateCSU) January 21, 2018

Less easily explained? What this official was so happy about after the Patriots' first touchdown.

I’ve never seen a ref this happy after a team scored a TD.

— Dave Lackford (@RivalsDave) January 21, 2018