After Minnesota’s 31-28 loss at New Orleans, here are three (mostly) indisputable facts I feel relatively sure about:
There was too much grumbling about the officiating in the Vikings’ postgame locker room. I don’t dispute there were some questionable calls. No team that commits five turnovers in a championship game, and is also called for 12 men on the field 20 seconds before the end of regulation, should spend much time evaluating the potential mistakes of others. Linebacker Ben Leber, for one, was upset about a pass interference penalty he incurred in overtime, putting the Saints in field goal position. Of two plays reviewed in overtime, one a first-down mark on fourth-and-1 and another a catch by receiver Robert Meachem, tailback Adrian Peterson said: “Really not going to say too much about the two calls at the game that got reviewed. You’ve got eyes. Pretty much, you can make your own judgments.” Some of those calls will be debated for some time, but the Vikings could have won despite them had they not made so many mistakes of their own.
In the end, the Vikings made Saints big-play threat Reggie Bush almost a complete non-factor. He didn’t gain a yard as a punt returner, rushed seven times for 8 yards and caught two passes for 33 yards and a contested touchdown. Punter Chris Kluwe had a 39-yard net average on four punts, fizzling the pregame storyline of his nightmare outing against the Saints in 2008.
The Vikings didn’t have a single false-start penalty on offense, but at times they were without question impacted by the noise at the Superdome. They had to call a timeout on one play when receiver Bernard Berrian lined up on the wrong side and didn’t notice quarterback Brett Favre frantically waving him over. You have to wonder if their penalty for 12 men on the field in the fourth quarter also could be connected to the crowd noise. And trust me when I tell you the Superdome was violently loud at times Sunday night. How so? On two occasions, the press box -- located on suite level -- swayed and shook. We were holding on for dear life.
And here is one question I'm asking:
Was the play that injured Favre’s left ankle legal? When you watch the replay, you see Saints defensive end Bobby McCray grab Favre by the feet to bring him down. This season, the NFL added an interpretation to prevent injuries on low hits similar to the one New England’s Tom Brady suffered last season. Here’s the wording of the addition: “A defender cannot initiate a roll or lunge and forcibly hit the passer in the knee area or below, even if he is being contacted by another player.” It’s open to some interpretation, but in general I don’t think the NFL wants defensive linemen grabbing the ankle of quarterbacks from behind and flipping them to the ground.