While the Green Bay Packers successfully got two Vikings touchdowns overturned by throwing challenge flags on Sunday night (the third TD that was overturned was challenged from the booth), the failure of Vikings coach Brad Childress to throw his red flag is causing plenty of second-guessing this morning.
The Packers took a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter when Aaron Rodgers completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Andrew Quarless in the back of the end zone. Quarless was covered by middle linebacker E.J. Henderson and strong safety Tyrell Johnson as he made the catch and fell to the ground.
Replays showed that by the time Quarless came down he was starting to lose possession of the football. This was noted by NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth and also by Henderson, who after seeing the catch began to signal incomplete.
"If you are going to the ground in the process of making the catch, or contact by a defender is made, you must maintain possession all the way to the ground," Collinsworth said as the replay was shown. "Clearly not. Incomplete pass. You can see the official was blocked by E.J. Henderson on the play, never saw it and you also saw [Packers coach] Mike McCarthy hustle his extra-point team out there and it made a difference."
Cornerback Antoine Winfield said during his weekly appeareance with Paul Allen on KFAN this morning that the Vikings should have challenged. "I came home and watched the TV copy and it was clearly not a touchdown," Winfield said. "It happened so fast, they rushed the field-goal team out there, they didn't show the replay, so good job by them."
The lesson to be learned from this is exactly how important the people are that a head coach relies upon to instruct them when it would be wise to challenge. The folks that control the replays on the Lambeau Field scoreboard were not going to show Childress a good angle of Quarless' touchdown until it was too late to challenge it. That is the way life works in the NFL.
If the Vikings had a play that could be overturned, McCarthy was going to see plenty of angles, just as Childress would at Mall of America Field. Childress' best hope was his assistants in the press box that are watching the TV replays and are in charge of suggesting what to do in these instances made it clear that a challenge would be a very good idea.
A concerned McCarthy tipped his hand by hustling his point-after personnel onto the field.
NBC did not show its first quality look at the Quarless touchdown until a split second before Mason Crosby kicked the extra point -- that eliminated the potential for a challenge -- but sometimes it makes sense to have the officials take another look, even if it costs a timeout. (The Vikings only used one timeout in the opening half.)
The Packers were willing to do this on Visanthe Shiancoe's apparent 17-yard touchdown later in the second quarter and it paid off. Green Bay is tied with four other teams for the NFL lead with seven challenges and the play in question has been overturned three times, according to NFL statistics. The Vikings, meanwhile, have three challenges and one play has been overturned.