Sunday night’s Vikings-Packers game contained enough layers and wrinkles to justify 100 different items.
The one that had the most impact on the outcome came from the inability of the officials patrolling the end zone to do their jobs properly, in real time and/or under the replay hood.
The availability of replay review is no substitute for getting it right in the first instance. On two separate occasions with scoring plays on the line, the officials got it wrong.
On the third occasion, referee Scott Green simply botched the replay review.
And all three calls worked against the team that lost by four points.
On the second play of the second quarter, a touchdown pass from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to tight end Andrew Quarless should have been ruled an incompletion. Quarless bobbled the ball after he landed out of bounds. (In the field of play, it’s OK to bobble the ball when hitting the ground as long as the ball doesn’t touch the ground. When landing out of bounds, possession must be maintained without bobbling. And, yes, these rules are indeed simple and clear.)
Though Vikings coach Brad Childress inexplicably failed to throw the challenge flag, the officials should be expected to be in position to see whether or not a pass is complete, especially in the end zone.
Later in the quarter, Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe made a diving catch in the end zone, after running back Adrian Peterson bought time for quarterback Brett Favre with a crushing block on a blitzing linebacker. Though the ball hit the ground, the ball never moved. The call on the field was correct.
NBC’s Al Michaels Cris Collinsworth agreed. As Collinsworth said during the broadcast, “Because he never lost control of the football, I’d be very surprised if this one gets overturned.”
Added Collinsworth: “But I’ve been surprised a few times in the past, too.”
The Packers challenged, and referee Scott Green took away the touchdown, explaining that Shiancoe had “used the ground to help make the catch.”
Whatever that means.
The league office apparently doesn’t understand, either. Per Judd Zulgad of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, coach Brad Childress said on Monday that the league office has informed him the call had been blown.
Then, on the final drive of the night, Vikings receiver Percy Harvin made a catch at the back of the end zone that appeared to give the Vikings a stirring come-from-behind win. In real time, it was obvious that Harvin couldn’t have gotten both feet down. But an official, who was right on top of the play, concluded that Harvin did, and the official called it a touchdown.
And so the Vikings offense, after celebrating the “oh my heavens!“-style win, had to process the fact that their jubilation was moot.
Yes, Green got it right when he went under the hood, but the Vikings never should have been permitted to even think that they had won the game. Though they’re all pros and they know they have to refocus and proceed, it’s far easier said than done in the heat of the moment.
Thus, while we prefer the coach Brad Childress not publicly whine about the officiating in a game in which he made his fair share of mistakes, he has the right to be at least quietly upset.
Vikings fans can choose to direct their anger at any one of five or six different culprits.
UPDATE: As a reader points out, there was another touchdown that incorrectly was awarded and then wiped off the board on replay review. The Vikings scored a touchdown on the next play, so it wasn’t as big deal.