Ever since there have been players and coaches instructing them, the coach has chimed that officials don't beat players in a close game — players beat themselves. However, a case could be made that Sunday's 13-10 loss to Chicago, for all of its importance to the Vikings, was lost on three critical plays — some would argue mistakes — by the officials.
Wanting to get early pressure on rookie quarterback Rex Grossman, the Vikings hoped to blitz him early and confuse him. On the first play of the game, they brought the blitz and Grossman aired out a bomb that landed among the Vikings' bench players. What appeared to be an uncatchable pass was ruled pass interference cornerback Ken Irvin, covering rookie Justin Gage. While Irvin did interfere, such plays are wiped away when a pass is ruled to be uncatchable. Pass interference was called, the Bears got 33 yards on the penalty, and it put them in position for kicker Paul Edinger to hit a 38-yard field goal for an early 3-0 lead.
The second critical call came in the final minute of the first quarter. Grossman, hoping to get a similar result from a long pass, launched a bomb down the right sideline for Marty Booker. He went up with CB Brian Williams and, while he caught the ball, his right foot came down in bounds, but his left foot appeared to hit the sideline stripe. The Vikings threw a challenge flag, at which time several replays showed Booker's foot hit the sideline. Yet, the officials allowed the play to stand, giving the Bears a 39-yard gain that would lead to their only touchdown.
The third call came midway through the third quarter. On a 22-yard pass to D'Wayne Bates, Moe Williams was in pass protection. He was called for holding, although a review showed he didn't commit the offense for which he was charged. Instead of having a first down at the Chicago 43, the Vikings had a third down on their own 25. One play later, punter Eddie Johnson bobbled the snap and was tackled on his own 20 — leading to the Bears' final field goal.
In a game where the Vikings gave up only 13 points, all of them were directly the result of close calls by the officials going in the Bears' favor. In a tight game, big calls can kill teams and, whether you disagreed with the decisions or not, the referees created the turning point of the game.
Turning Point: Close Calls
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