Darn those officials. They stuck it to those poor Vikings fans once again at Lambeau Field.
Already focused on next year’s draft, the Purple faithful really needed Mike Zimmer’s 1-5 squad to lie down for the final 10 games to have any shot of challenging the winless Jets’ stranglehold on the Tank for Trevor Sweepstakes.
So, what happens? The Vikings beat the 5-1 Packers 28-22 after a controversial call goes in favor of the Vikings?!
Sunday’s effort was going aggravatingly too well as the visitors led the Packers 28-14 with 8 minutes, 21 seconds left. But we all know what this team did with late leads against other good teams from Tennessee and Seattle.
Suddenly, another collapse looked entirely possible when Anthony Harris was flagged for pass interference on tight end Robert Tonyan on fourth-and-9 from the Vikings 32-yard line.
Way to save the draft, Anthony!
But wait. Head referee Alex Kemp picked up the flag and announced there had been no infraction and the Packers wouldn’t be getting the automatic first down.
The word “Nooo!” might have been audible from some homes in Minnesota. Especially after Fox’s rules guru Dean Blandino disagreed with the decision to pick up the flag, saying Harris wasn’t playing the football when he ran through Tonyan before the ball arrived.
Zimmer, who isn’t Tanking for Trevor, had jumped Kemp to complain before the flag was picked up.
“I thought [Harris] was going for the ball,” Zimmer said. “I got reprimanded for that, though.”
Linebacker Eric Kendricks was asked if he was surprised Kemp picked the flag up. He delivered a forearm shiver to the head of that questioner.
“I was surprised they threw the flag,” he said. “How about that?”
Knowing Aaron Rodgers and knowing the Vikings defense — which went into the game without two cornerbacks and then lost three more to injuries Sunday — Kemp’s decision to wave off that flag had a huge impact on draining enough time to hang on and move an insurmountable two wins ahead of the 0-8 Jets at the bottom of the league standings.
And that’s not all the officials did to break the hearts of Purple draftniks everywhere.
The Vikings were flagged seven times for 36 yards. The Packers had nine penalties for 85 yards.
Heck, at one point, Rodgers faced first-and-30 because of back-to-back holding penalties.
Defensively, the Packers and the officials teamed up to help the Vikings take their first lead, 21-14 on a 10-play, 85-yard touchdown drive that featured two defensive pass interference penalties on third down.
Another third down earlier in the drive featured a rare Chad Beebe sighting and some pitiful man coverage by cornerback Chandon Sullivan. On third-and-8, Sullivan gave Beebe a huge cushion and Beebe made him pay with a 16-yard catch and run.
“We’ve said all year long, Chad Beebe has been separating versus man coverage,” Cousins said. “That’s not easy to do against NFL defensive backs, and he’s doing it, and it was great to get him an opportunity to get the football because he’s been putting that on tape week in and week out.”
Then came the third-down penalties.
The first was a 20-yard penalty on Jaire Alexander, who got twisted up against rookie receiver Justin Jefferson on third-and-6 from the Green Bay 26. The second came when cornerback Josh Jackson mugged Adam Thielen in the end zone on third-and-goal from the 6.
“The corner route to Justin, I don’t know how obvious of a PI it was, but obviously a huge call for us on a third down there,” Cousins said. “And then again, third-and-goal, they play a loaded zone there.
“Adam Thielen, I felt, was getting behind the coverage. The safety jumped Dalvin [Cook] on the front of the end zone, and so I put it over his head to Adam. But Adam couldn’t get off the coverage. Just grateful they called [pass interference], and it gave us a chance to run it in.”
Which they did.
Darn those officials. They always stick it to the Vikings, eh?
Mark Craig did not travel to Green Bay for Sunday’s game. He wrote this account after watching the television broadcast and participating in interviews via videoconference.