Super Bowl 52: Eagles studying officiating crew closely in wake of AFC title game

The Eagles are extensively studying the Super Bowl officiating crew in an attempt to avoid the Jaguars’ fate in the AFC championship game.

Pass interference calls by referee Clete Blakeman’s crew weighed heavily into the Patriots’ comeback against Jacksonville, and Philadelphia is breaking down film to see how Gene Steratore’s crew has called games to avoid giving New England big chunk plays on penalties Sunday.

“There’s always a fine line in this game between what’s valid and what’s not,” linebacker Mychal Kendricks told ESPN. “But at the end of the day, that’s the ref’s call. Some of those were questionable; some of them were blatant. Sometimes refs will let you get away with that; sometimes they run a tight game. So we’ll have to do the assessing as we go as well.”

Steratore and his team of officials have called 43 penalties for defensive pass interference, defensive holding or illegal contact this season, fifth highest in the league.

In the Patriots’ 24-20 win over the Jaguars, New England was called for one penalty while Jacksonville was flagged for six. One crucial call against the Jaguars came on the Patriots’ touchdown drive toward the end of the first half, when A.J. Bouye was flagged for a 32-yard pass interference penalty that set up New England in the red zone. In the second half, Jalen Ramsey was called for a 36-yard pass interference penalty, again setting up New England in the red zone. Of Jacksonville’s 98 penalty yards, 68 came on these two fouls.

The Eagles will be conscious of what Steratore and his crew are likely to call as a penalty, and they will adjust accordingly.

“[We’ve been studying] just what referees call … what they throw the flag [on] most often and just how to be aware of not getting a flag, what we can do and what position we can put ourselves in to just not get a flag thrown on us,” cornerback Rasul Douglas told ESPN. “Definitely, PI and defensive holding. … We just want to get our head back because the referee lets you play if you’re looking at the ball, so we just try not to face-guard as much.”