Patriots

Referee for Patriots-Steelers Week 1 game has long history with New England

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USA TODAY Sports

Referee for Patriots-Steelers Week 1 game has long history with New England

The NFL has made its referee assignment for the Week 1 showdown between the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers, and Pats fans probably will recognize him.

Clete Blakeman and his crew will officiate Sunday night's game at Gillette Stadium. It's his first assignment involving the Patriots since last season's AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Blakeman has a long history of working memorable Patriots games this decade. Here's a list of the notable matchups, via The Boston Globe's Ben Volin.

Blakeman became a referee in 2010, and the Patriots are 4-5 (including a 2-0 playoff record) in games he's officiated over that span.

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That 617 Life Podcast: Patriots' ties to a Pats-less Super Bowl

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

That 617 Life Podcast: Patriots' ties to a Pats-less Super Bowl

The Patriots may have been missing from the NFL's Championship Sunday, but that didn't stop them from being mentioned and having their former personnel play prominent roles in the AFC and NFC Championship Games.

Whether it was former Pats linebacker Mike Vrabel coaching the Tennessee Titans against the Kansas City Chiefs or former New England quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo helping the San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers to reach Super Bowl 54, the Patriots continue to be a talked-about team. 

On the latest edition of the "That 617 Life" podcast, Leroy Irvin, Shanda Foster and Cerrone Battle discussed how the Pats still loomed over the games on Sunday.

"You can not say anything bad about the Patriots because we are always constantly producing talent," Foster said. "I think this is the perfect testament to Bill Belichick."

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Battle said it speaks to the dominance of the Patriots the past two decades that connections to their former players and staff are now all over the league.

"That's what happens when you win," Battle said. "When you win, everybody wants a piece. They want your waterboy. Look at the new head coach of the Giants [Joe Judge, the former Patriots special teams and receivers coach]?... When you're good for 20 years eventually you're going to have your roots all over the league. After years and years of success, I'm not shocked by it."

Irvin and Foster said instead of lamenting a rare NFL Final Four without New England, Pats fans should be grateful.

"I wish Patriot Nation would grow up," Irvin said. "By that I mean I'm tired of seeing on social media people just crying and complaining, 'Oh it's boring without the Patriots.' We've had almost two decades of excellence. We're not there. Get over it."

Said Foster, "I was grateful more than anything. Filled with gratitude. We may never see a run like this again."

In his "Hot Takes and Cold Cuts" segment, Battle says those crowning the Super Bowl 54 opponents as the next dynasties might want to pump the brakes a little. 

"First thing I heard [after the games] is, 'Kansas City they're gonna be around for years and San Francisco they're gonna be around for a long time. They're gonna be contenders forever,' " Battle said. "That was the story all day. 'What is anybody gonna do about these teams next year?' What are they gonna do next year? Not even worry about them. Why? Because this is the Not For Long League. The NFL. Every year, the teams that were hot the year before are never guaranteed to be hot the year after that. Unless you're the Patriots."

The crew also gives their reactions to the new Aaron Hernandez Netflix documentary. It's all in this week's "That 617 Life" podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast network. Click here to listen and subscribe.

 

NFL rumors: Patriots d-line coach Bret Bielema leaving to join Giants

NFL rumors: Patriots d-line coach Bret Bielema leaving to join Giants

Bret Bielema's stay with the New England Patriots was brief.

The Patriots defensive line coach is leaving to join the New York Giants coaching staff, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday.

Bielema, who joined the Patriots staff in 2019, will re-unite with Joe Judge in New York. Judge was hired as Giants head coach earlier this month after spending most of the last decade as a special teams coach for the Patriots. Bielema is the second Patriots defensive line coach in as many seasons to leave the team. Brendan Daly left the Patriots shortly after Super Bowl LIII to become the Kansas City Chiefs d-line coach.

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Bielema has many years of coaching experience, mostly at the college level. He was the head coach of Wisconsin from 2006 through 2012, and then he took charge of the Arkansas program from 2013 through 2017. 

His exit isn't the only coaching news involving the Patriots. New England reportedly has hired one of its former practice squad players, Vinnie Sunseri, in a support staff role.

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