Ref provides conspiracy theory gold
IT wasn't Tom Brady's hand that set conspiracy theorists' minds racing.
After the Patriots' come-from-behind, 24-20 triumph over the Jaguars in the AFC Championship game, an official walked over to the gloveless wonder and patted him on the back to get his attention.
He then used the universal nice-job-man pat to the chest, congratulating the 40-year-old on clinching his eighth Super Bowl appearance.
It was enough to gain notice of a few NFL players and enough to begin the complaints of every Patriots critic (meaning, every non-Patriots fan).
After a game in which Jacksonville racked up 98 yards on six penalties to New England's 10 yards on one, it made for a clip that instantly went viral, fodder for all those who think that so many calls go the Patriots' way in big-time moments.
It wasn't even the first time the tinfoil hats were worn Sunday; after a second-quarter touchdown, another official was seen with a big smile on the outskirts of the team's end-zone celebration.
This season a number of questionable calls have gone Bill Belichick's way - catches were made non-catches against the Jets and Steelers - and just last week, officials made a few head-turning calls as the Patriots ran away from the Titans.
Regardless, New England moves on with one last chance this season to deflate its enemies.