Vikings Feel Wronged By Close Calls

The Vikings have lost three straight games by a touchdown or less, and in each of their tight losses at least one close officials call went against the Vikings. With the division-leading Packers sprinting out ahead of them, the Vikings haven't been able to overcome that adversity.

Vikings coach Brad Childress and the players had been keeping a positive frame of mind last week when it came to their 1-2 record. They were in all the games they had lost and felt like a play – or a call – here or there and they would have a winning – or maybe even undefeated – record.

After a 24-3 win in the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons, the Vikings have dropped three straight games, and each one of those losses has been by one touchdown or less with some amount of controversy.

In a 20-17 overtime loss to the Detroit Lions, the Vikings knocked starting quarterback Jon Kitna temporarily out of the game in the second quarter, but in the third quarter backup J.T. O'Sullivan garnered a favorable call when the officials flagged defensive tackle Spencer Johnson for unnecessary roughness. It wasn't that Johnson went helmet-to-helmet on O'Sullivan or even that he hit him late. Instead, according to Childress and Johnson, the officials didn't like the way Johnson "finished" the play.

O'Sullivan's head banged off the Ford Field turf, but Johnson insists he did nothing different or wrong in tackling O'Sullivan.

"It was a clean hit as far as I saw," Johnson said the day after. "I didn't use my helmet or anything. When I finished, his head hit the ground. I didn't do anything extra, it was just all momentum."

But the call bailed the Lions out of an incompletion on a third-and-22 situation, and five plays later they scored a touchdown and took a 17-7 lead on their way to a 20-17 win in overtime.

One week later, in a 13-10 loss to Kansas City, the Vikings felt cheated in the second quarter when running back Mewelde Moore rolled out right with the ball, drew the defense to him and lofted a second-down pass to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe in the end zone. Shiancoe dove for the ball and appeared to get his hand and elbow under the ball. He immediately rose to his feet and started to celebrate what he was convinced was a touchdown.

The officials ruled it an incomplete pass, and even a challenge that seemed to show he had caught the ball wasn't enough to get referee Walt Anderson to change his crew's initial decision.

"We've had opportunities to drive the football and we're driving it between the 30-yard lines. We are not finishing drives and we need to be able to finish drives. I think that obviously the non-touchdown call on Shiancoe hurt us there," Childress said the day after that game.

That touchdown would have given the Vikings a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Instead, they settled for a field goal and a 10-0 lead, and that four-point swing proved critical in a three-point loss.

Sunday's 23-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers wasn't much different. The Vikings had plenty of chances to move the ball and score more often than they did, and much of the blame had to be placed on their offense once again.

But they also felt wronged by a couple of critical calls and non-calls by the officials.

With the Vikings trailing 16-9 in the fourth quarter, the Packers were looking to make it a two-score lead, but the Vikings defense thought they had things turned around when quarterback Brett Favre threw a short pass to fullback Kory Hall. Hall caught the ball in stride in the backfield and turned to run upfield when he was hit immediately by cornerback Antoine Winfield. The ball popped out and linebacker Chad Greenway picked it up and started running.

"They said he didn't get two feet down," Winfield said after the game.

Greenway heard the whistle on the field to signal an incomplete pass, but that didn't mean he agreed with the ruling.

"From my viewpoint, it looked like he had caught and turned, but he had a better angle than the rest of us and Antoine made a great play on it. I heard the whistle right when I picked it up. He blew it right away and I kind of acted like I didn't hear it," Greenway said. "My convoy was coming. I don't know if I would have scored or not, but it would have put the ball in a great situation for our offense."

Since the officials were quick on the whistle, the play couldn't be reviewed. Two plays later, the Packers appeared to get a favorable spot on a third-down reception and Childress challenged that spot – to no avail. Five plays after that challenge, the Packers were hitting on a Favre-to-James Jones touchdown pass to take a 23-9 lead.

The Vikings responded with a 12-play touchdown drive that pulled them within one touchdown of a tie, 23-16, with 1:55 to play.

After an unlikely fumble by Green Bay's Ryan Grant that Greenway recovered to give the Vikings hope, there was one more ruling that the Vikings contended went against them.

They took possession of the ball at their own 46-yard line and started with a 15-yard completion to Sidney Rice and received a pass interference call on cornerback Al Harris for another first down at the Packers 34-yard line. After an incompletion, quarterback Kelly Holcomb fired a pass to Bobby Wade, who was trying to run a slant that cornerback Charles Woodson was attempting to take away. With receiver and cornerback fighting for position, the pass deflected off Wade and diving safety Atari Bigby came up with the second-down interception with 1:06 to play to seal the win for the Packers.

Wade was asked if there was contact with Woodson before the ball arrived.

"No doubt about it. … It is what it is. I'm not making no excuses about it, but that's what it is," Wade said. "He was playing a hard inside technique. I got a release, I'm running a slant. I'm working my darnedest to get inside him and he's trying to play with that leverage. The thing is, when the ball is in the air and the ball is going to the offensive player, if he's on you when the ball is in the air, that's pass interference. I thought they were doing a good job calling it earlier today. Then when we had the opportunity for them to make the right call, I just felt like it wasn't there."

That's the way the Vikings have felt about a number of plays during their three-game losing streak, and they haven't proven good enough to overcome questionable calls in their close losses.

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