Two critical calls highlighted the officials’ horrible day, and both took away big plays from the Lions.
The first came early in the fourth quarter with the Vikings up 31-29. Facing a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, the Vikings ran a play-action pass, but Kirk Cousins was sacked by a blitzing Tracy Walker. Immediately after the sack, the officials threw a flag on Walker, believing it to be a roughing the passer infraction. Afterwards, the official said Walker landed on Cousins with his full weight. Officiating experts disagree.
We covered this in the liveblog, but this is the technique the league wants to see from def players, going over the top of the quarterback. It looks like the judgement call made here was that the body weight was lowered on the QB, but that is not the case pic.twitter.com/tVkaZ7wfbg— Fᴏᴏᴛʙᴀʟʟ Zᴇʙʀᴀs ✊ ⚖️ (@footballzebras) January 3, 2021
After the game, Walker took the safe route with the media. Disagreeing with the call, but not calling out the refs.
“I definitely tried to not put my weight on him. I definitely moved out the way, but the call was made. I said at the end of the day, I can’t speak on it, but everybody saw it. It’s not for me to determine if it’s a good or bad call. I just have to bounce back and try to go out there and make another play. So that’s what I tried to do.”
However, his teammates had his back. Let’s start with the most vocal of them all, 15-year veteran Adrian Peterson. Certainly he has some perspective on this worth considering:
“Just (a) terrible call. It’s probably one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen. You think about the game of football, it’s a physical game. It’s such a critical situation, fourth-and-1, that was a game-changer-type of play. I’m standing there watching the entire play, and he actually finished with his hands down and running. To say that he put all his bodyweight on the quarterback – it was just – it was just one of those calls you just can’t make, especially when you see your quarterback take a helmet-to-helmet hit earlier in the game. It’s like the eyes were closed on that play. It’s frustrating.”
Wow. Tell us how you really feel, Adrian.
To get an idea of just how pissed off Peterson was, check out these pictures of him in the moment:
He wasn’t the only one that was caught on camera mad. Taylor Decker ran down officials after the game and confronted them, too. And you can pretty much guess what he was talking about based on a post-game tweet:
Walker’s defensive teammate and rookie John Penisini took his frustrations to Twitter and was quite blunt about it.
But that’s not where the controversy ended. On the Lions next offensive possession, Matthew Stafford connected with Marvin Jones Jr. for a 38-yard touchdown. Upon review, it appeared the ball jarred loose from Jones’ hands, but we never saw a clear angle of the ball ever hitting the ground. Still, the officials decided to overturn the call on the field and it was deemed incomplete.
Kerryon Johnson clearly thinks the fix is in:
Meanwhile, Jones Jr.—who was victimized by another bad call a few weeks ago—disagreed with this one, as well. Here’s his answer on if he believed it should have been overturned:
“Yeah, I mean no way, right? I didn’t know at all. When they stopped everything and they were like, ‘It’s under review’, I’m like, ‘Literally, why?’. It sucks because we’ve become accustomed to calls like that here. I don’t know why, but it is what it is.”
It’s actually a bit refreshing to see Lions players refuse to hold back their emotions. This game may not have meant a lot in terms of final standings, but it clearly meant a lot to the players themselves, and for a team that has been victimized by far too many bad calls, it’s good to see them standing up for themselves.