The Cowboys notched their third consecutive win in exciting fashion, blowing out the Commanders in front of the largest television audience any NFL team has seen all year. Now, they host the Seahawks on their second consecutive Thursday game and hope to make it four straight wins before entering a mini-bye week to prepare for a rematch with the Eagles.
Before we get into the officiating crew for this game, let’s peek at the Cowboys’ weekly penalty breakdown:
Cowboys Penalties Week by Week
The crew for the Thanksgiving game was notorious for letting things go unflagged, and that was certainly felt by some Cowboys fans who wanted more pass interference or holding calls. Even with a lenient officiating crew - one that definitely let a lot of things go - the Cowboys managed seven penalties on the day. That’s not ideal given the crew that was calling this game, and the crew for this Thursday likely won’t be calling less penalties either:
The Cowboys draw Clete Blakeman as the head referee for this game, who will be calling his 250th NFL game. That’s certainly a meaningful milestone for Blakeman, and he’s likely a welcome sight for the Cowboys. Blakeman was on the call for the Cowboys’ home opener this year against the Jets, and they were only penalized six times to the Jets’ five while winning big.
That’s been par for the course with Blakeman, who has a reputation of being very neutral in the way his crew calls games. No leniency is granted between the home or road teams, with Blakeman frequently calling penalties consistently both ways. Over the last two years, Blakeman’s crew called eight more penalties on the road team, one of the slimmest margins during that span. So far this year, Blakeman has called four more on the road team, also one of the slimmest margins.
As mentioned the last time Blakeman called a Cowboys game, this crew is known for being fair but also strict. They’ll call a penalty if they see it, but will call it that way on both teams. That’s a stark contrast to the Cowboys’ past two officials, who both had a reputation for letting teams play. Even so, Blakeman’s crew has thrown the third-fewest flags this year after ranking in the top five each of the last two years. That’s a testament to his fairness.
To nobody’s surprise, Blakeman’s two most frequent penalty calls are false start and holding, but he’s surprisingly lenient with both: Blakeman’s crew is dead last in holding calls. In recent years, Blakeman’s crew has been known to call things close when it comes to defensive backs, but this year they are middle of the pack in pass interference, defensive holding, and illegal contact calls.
Three areas where Blakeman has been very busy are some of the less common penalty areas. Blakeman’s crew has called the third-most neutral zone infraction penalties, the second-most roughing the passer penalties, and the second-most delay of game penalties. In fact, he’s averaging one delay of game penalty each week.
Blakeman’s tendency to call things evenly has resulted in a pretty even split between home and road winners. For his career, the home team is 122-95 in games called by Blakeman, but from 2016 to 2022 it actually dropped to a much tighter 60-55 record. That’s changed this year, as the home team is 8-2 in Blakeman games and currently on a five-game win streak.
One of those eight wins featured the Cowboys blowing out the Jets, which was the 11th time Blakeman had called a Cowboys game. That win pushed their record under Blakeman to 5-6, giving them their first home win with Blakeman. As mentioned last time, that was also the first game Blakeman had called with Mike McCarthy at head coach and Dak Prescott healthy. The result was a very good one for Dallas.
Blakeman is the type of official that won’t throw flags unnecessarily so, but also isn’t afraid to penalize something that needs to be flagged. The good news is he generally stays consistent for both teams. In an even matchup, the more disciplined team usually wins. The Cowboys and Seahawks enter this game tied for the second-most penalties in the NFL, so it’s anyone’s guess which team will be more disciplined.
All in all, though, it’s unlikely that Blakeman’s crew will have an enormous impact on this game. They’ll be strict but fair, which would seemingly favor the Cowboys as nine point favorites in a stadium they’ve dominated in as of late.