I have been mulling it over since Sunday and I can’t take it anymore—the officiating during the Minnesota Vikings loss to the Pittsburg Steelers was highly suspicious. So suspicious, in fact, that a cynical person would suspect them of taking bribes from the Steelers organization. It’s a good thing I’m such a starry-eyed optimist.
Although it smacks of being a poor loser, and I am, I maintain that the officiating played a pivotal role in the Vikings’ loss to the Steelers. I’m not saying that the Vikings’ own shortcomings didn’t come back to bite them, they definitely did, but for the bulk of the game they were hanging in there with the defending champion Steelers—for three quarters they remained within three to four points of each other. While the Vikings were plagued by messy play that brought on its own share of penalties, there were at least three highly questionable calls. It is too bad that Coach Childress had only two challenge flags and that one of those flags was wasted early in the game.
The first incredibly hinky call I noticed was the ruling on the field that Sidney Rice was not in bounds when he caught a pass for a nice gain. Not in bounds? When they showed the replay you could see a margin of green between Rice’s feet and the sidelines. And he had control of the ball. Fortunately, Childress still had a challenge flag at that point in the game and the ruling on the field was over-turned on challenge.
The next call to make Vikings fans cock their heads and squint with incredulity was on another great play with Sidney Rice. Rice hauled in a sweet ten-yard pass from Brett Favre for a touchdown, but the play was undone by a tripping penalty called on Jeff Dugan. Watching the replay, I couldn’t see evidence of tripping, just a cut, and I wasn’t the only one. Childress was so rankled that he reportedly phoned Mike Pereira, the NFL’s vice president of officiating, on Monday to make his displeasure known.
Finally, and I found this very educational, there was a call on Cedric Griffin for a defensive delay of game. I didn’t even know it was possible for the defense to delay the game, but, apparently, it is. Like I said, that call was educational. The guys in the booth who were calling the game had to look it up because they weren’t familiar with that call either. My friend Kyle has some experience officiating football games and was probably the sole person in the viewing audience familiar with the existence of a defensive delay of game rule. But, familiar or not, the call very graciously provided Pittsburg with a fresh set of downs so they could take more time off the clock, denying the Vikings time to rally a comeback.
One questionable call isn’t surprising. Things happen fast and the officials might not have a good angle on the action. Two questionable calls look odd, but it happens. However, three questionable calls at pivotal points in the game, one of which took away a touchdown, looks more like services rendered. It also expands the definition of “home field advantage.” And it isn’t as if the refs needed to dig up obscure and suspicious calls to nix the Vikings chances in the game, they were already playing sloppily and had incurred eight penalties that no one batted an eye at.
Would the Vikings have been able to beat the Steelers if it hadn’t been for those calls? I don’t know. But it seems fairly clear that they weren’t going to win if they had to beat the Steelers and the officials. And, this is a small point, but officials imposing themselves on the game the way they did, well, that is just insulting to a great football team like the Pittsburg Steelers.
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