EDIT - Well, at least the officiating crew readily admitted their screw-up.
I've been relatively silent about the replacement officials through the early portion of the season thus far, because their screw-ups in games involving the Minnesota Vikings have been minimal. However, the sequence that we saw towards the end of the game against the San Francisco 49ers this afternoon was so awful that it merits mention.
We pick up the action with about three and a half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of play, Vikings leading 24-13, and facing 2nd-and-10 from the San Francisco 35-yard line. Toby Gerhart took a handoff from Christian Ponder and dove forward for no gain. The referees called Gerhart down, and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh called his final time out. At least, we thought it was his final time out.
After he called the time out, Harbaugh decided he wanted to challenge the play, as he thought that Toby Gerhart had fumbled the ball. And, indeed, Gerhart had fumbled. . .however, since Harbaugh had burned his last time out, he should not have had the ability to challenge the play. Not only did the referees allow Harbaugh to challenge the play with no time outs remaining, but after they ruled that Gerhart had fumbled the ball and that the Niners had recovered, they gave the Niners their time out back. I really don't know what the heck the referees were thinking there.
Soon after, following Alex Smith's first interception since last Thanksgiving (courtesy of rookie Josh Robinson), Gerhart put the ball on the ground again, but this time fell right on top of it. Harbaugh, since he now had a time out in his pocket that he shouldn't have had, challenged that ruling as well. After the officials ruled that the fumble was recovered by Gerhart, they took away the time out from San Francisco that San Francisco shouldn't have had in the first place.
Follow all that? Good. You're doing a better job than the crew that worked today's game.
Ultimately, it wound up not making any difference. After Gerhart's third fumble in four carries, Jared Allen strip-sacked Smith, and Brian Robison recovered. The Vikings took a knee to run out the clock, and went into the locker room with the 24-13 upset victory over what I thought, coming in, was the NFL's best team.
We'll have plenty more about this game in the next day or two. I just wanted to put this out there for those that might not have been following the last couple minutes of action for whatever reason.