Yet again, a marquee prime-time NFL game ends with an officiating controversy.
Down by eight points to the Dallas Cowboys with just over two minutes remaining and having not moved the ball at all basically all night, Sam Bradford went to work. He marched the Minnesota Vikings right down the field against a Cowboys defense that, for one of the first times this year, spent more time on the field than off it.
Bradford completed all six of his passes on the drive, spraying the ball around to Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Jerick McKinnon and Cordarrelle Patterson. Finally, Bradford found McKinnon on a stick route for a touchdown, as the speedy running back faked star linebacker Sean Lee out of his pants and scooted into the end zone.
All the Vikes had to do then was score from basically the exact same spot on the field and they would have a shot at sending the game into overtime if they could stop the Cowboys with 25 seconds left and two timeouts. But their offensive line had other ideas.
Jeremiah Sirles, who was just brutally bad all night long, was called for a false start, which pushed the ball back to the 7-yard line for the two-point attempt. Sam Bradford dropped back to pass, was hit as he threw, and fired the ball well over the head of Kyle Rudolph in the back of the end zone.
One can argue the Vikes should have gotten another shot at it. As you can see in the GIF above, Cedric Thornton clearly hit Bradford in the head on the tail end of the throw. Take a look at the still shot, which the referee was staring directly at.
That's pretty blatant, and pretty much everyone noticed right away.
Should have been called.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) December 2, 2016
And.....again. Now when is a blow to the head a foul, and when isn't it!!! So bad. SO bad. #DALvsMIN— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) December 2, 2016
Should have been a penalty. Refs missed it badly— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) December 2, 2016
Horrible missed call— Shawne Merriman (@shawnemerriman) December 2, 2016
Throw a flag 😡— Cris Carter (@criscarter80) December 2, 2016
I don't wanna hear bleep D. Blandino gotta say. Ref looking right at Bradford and didn't throw a flag— shannon sharpe (@ShannonSharpe) December 2, 2016
However, as several people noted immediately after the play, it should have been blown dead well before Bradford was hit in the head by Thornton. Left tackle T.J. Clemmings should have been called for a false start. You can check out the video right here. It's pretty obvious as well.
So what we should have had was yet another two-point attempt for the Vikes, this time from the 12-yard line. Instead, we have yet another controversial ending to a prime-time game in which the officials, and not the players, are seen as having decided things.