It wasn’t exactly how Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians drew it up, but the Vikings saw their late lead squandered on a bizarre sequence that brought back memories of the old Holy Roller play.
On 4th and Goal from the Vikings’ 6-yard line, Cardinals quarterback Ryan Lindley was unable to field a wide shotgun snap. The ball ricocheted off his right hand and rolled into a scrum of linemen. One of the Cardinals swatted the ball forward and to the left, and Cardinals running back Zach Bauman scooped it up and ran it into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:11 left.
After a replay review, referee Craig Wrolstad announced that the call on the field would stand.
“Any backwards pass can be advanced by any team, any direction, on any down,” Wrolstad later said. “It wasn’t a fumble because the snap was never possessed by any of the players. The ball was snapped, it rolled around, it was knocked around a couple of times. Nobody ever had control of the ball. Nobody ever had control of the ball, so nobody ever had possession, so it was not a fumble.”
Wrolstad added that he didn’t believe that the Cardinals player who touched the ball, John Estes, intentionally pushed the ball forwards. If he had, the play would not have been permissible.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said that an official initially told him not to worry about the review because a fumble cannot be advanced on fourth down. But it turned out it wasn’t a fumble.
“Then the official came up to me and said it was a backwards pass because the quarterback never had possession of the ball so it wasn’t a fumble,” he said. “They were able to advance it. There were some other things that happened on that play that probably didn’t get called. The officials in this league do a great job. They really do. We don’t always agree with them, but they do a great job.”
The silver lining was that the play gave Zimmer an opportunity to see rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater run the two-minute offense in a game. And, of course, Bridgewater delivered the win.