Right before halftime in Minnesota's 37-35 loss to Miami, it appeared that the Vikings were going to be content to run out the clock and go to the locker room with a 14-7 lead. After a Miami punt put the ball on the Vikings 13, they had only 1:06 left, but all three timeouts left. I felt they had enough time to get downfield and at least get into field goal range, but two runs for five yards showed me that the Vikings felt otherwise. The Dolphins called a timeout after each run, so the Vikes had a third and five from the 18 with 53 seconds left.
Then it got crazy. Banyard busted one for 18 yards, and all of a sudden the Vikings were thinking field goal, at least. From their 34, Teddy Bridgewater hit Charles Johnson on a nifty 25 yard run and catch, and then Cordarelle Patterson made a cameo appearance for another 18 yard catch. Suddenly, Minnesota was on the Dolphins 23 with 19 seconds left.
That's when The No Touchdown Catch happened, and it was one of the more ridiculous calls I can remember going against the Vikings. And when a guy like me can make a statement like that with regards to the Minnesota Vikings, that's saying something. Here's what happened:
Bridgewater threw a strike to Chase Ford, who caught the ball at about the four or five. He was ruled out at the one, and because the game was within two minutes of the half ending, any replay would have to be initiated by the replay official, which it was. At game speed, it would have been easy for the referee to say Ford went out of bounds at the one yard line, because it was really, really close. But hey, that's why we have replay. As the play continued on, Ford and the ball broke the plane of the goal line, inside the pylon, with possession of the ball. So if his foot was ruled to be in bounds, it was a touchdown, the Vikings would go into the locker room up 21-7, and they would be getting the ball starting the third quarter.
Needless to say, this was a huge moment in the game. So, let's look and see what the referees saw, shall we? Here's the full shot of Ford, at the one, and his right foot:
It's a little blurry, but it sure looks like there's a sliver of green grass between his foot and the out of bounds marker. Let's see if we can't blow this up:
There, that's better. Oh hey, lookee there. It's blurry, but it seems awfully apparent that Ford's foot is clearly in bounds. Now, the NFL rule book states that a call can be overturned only when there's clear video evidence to support overturning the original call, which this appears to be. Even Mike Pereira, Fox NFL analyst, former referee and head of referees for the NFL, tweeted this:
In #MINvsMIA -- I dont think the right foot goes out of bounds before Ford scores. I'd overturn it and make it a TD.— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) December 21, 2014
Yeah, the only problem with that is that Mike Pereira wasn't officiating the game, Tony Corrente's crew was. And Tony Corrente and company had a list a mile long of terrible calls in this game, against both teams, but this was by far the worst one.
Corrente and company upheld the original ruling on the field, and the ball was placed at the one yard line with eight seconds left. Vikings fans were rightly stunned and angered, and once again Pereira made this observation:
If that's not reversed in Miami, they're not going to reverse much. reversal rate is down from 45.1% to 36.8% this season.— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) December 21, 2014
After an incomplete pass to Charles Johnson, six seconds remained, and the Vikings chose the chip shot field goal, and went to the locker room with a 17-7 lead instead of a 21-7 lead. The Vikings left four points on the field because of that play, and ended up losing by two.
Did that single play, or any bad call for that matter, cost the Vikings a victory? No. A defense that gave up over 500 yards of offense is a big part of it, a critical turnover while the Vikings were driving is a big culprit, and a special teams failure at the end of the game was also a significant contributing factor. So to blame this loss on the refs is an obtuse argument when the offense, defense, and special teams all played much bigger roles than any one single call or penalty.
My problem with this particular call is that the NFL has the replay system in place to overturn what are obviously bad calls to make sure great plays count. And if the NFL isn't going to properly utilize the replay system, they need to improve the process or get rid of it.
This, in retrospect, was a great play by Ford to keep his feet in bounds and get into the end zone.
Only it wasn't. Officially.