NFC North: 2012 Week 3 Rapid Reaction
September, 25, 2012
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
A few thoughts on the nearly indescribable events of Monday night at CenturyLink Field:
What it means: The final game of Week 3 finally gave the NFL what it deserved: An apparent mistake by its inadequate replacement officials impacted the outcome of the game. The Packers were the very unfortunate victims. They are 1-2 and no amount of outcry can change that.
The play: Replacement officials made two egregious calls on the final play, which officially went down as a 24-yard Hail Mary touchdown reception for Seahawks receiver Golden Tate. First, Tate blatantly pushed Packers cornerback Sam Shields in the back to clear room. Second, Packers safety M.D. Jennings appeared to intercept the pass and land on the ground with the ball. Tate reached for the ball as well but did not appear to have simultaneous possession. Of the two officials near the play, one ruled a touchdown and the other a touchback. For reasons unknown, a replay review confirmed a touchdown.
The scene: Officials called a total of 24 penalties in the game, creating such anger on both sides that the Packers stormed off the field shortly after the Tate ruling. Eventually, league officials required 11 players to return for the required extra-point kick. Some players were forced to root through an equipment locker to find their helmets. In all, it was one of the most disorganized and embarrassing scenes you'll ever see on an NFL field. At least, so far.
Sack attack: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked eight times in the first half, one short of an NFL record and a total of nine in the game. The Packers did an excellent job in the second half curbing the Seahawks pass rush by shifting to a run-first offense. They put together scoring drives of 13, 11 and 16 plays. But Rodgers' attempt on a 2-point conversion after Cedric Benson's one-yard run on the final drive gave the Seahawks a glimmer of hope.
JenningsWatch: I haven't seen every game of receiver Greg Jennings' career, but I know I've never seen him anywhere close to as mad as he was after the Seahawks' Brandon Browner decked him with a cheap-shot hit to the head at the end of a downfield route in the fourth quarter. Jennings, who started despite a groin injury, sprinted after Browner and the two wrestled in the end zone for several moments before officials called offsetting fouls. Jennings is a gentlemen (and a gentle man) who blew his top for good reason.
What's next: The Packers will return Sunday to Lambeau Field to host the winless New Orleans Saints. I bet it will be an angry flight home.
September, 23, 2012
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on Sunday's events, a 24-13 win for the Vikings, at the Metrodome:
What it means: The "any given Sunday" cliché once again proved accurate. The Minnesota Vikings, ranked No. 29 last week in ESPN.com's Power Rankings, controlled this game from start to finish over the top-ranked team, the San Francisco 49ers. Most impressively, the Vikings proved more physical than one of the NFL's hardest-hitting teams. As a result, the Vikings have a share of first place in the NFC North. At 2-1 after three games, this is the latest the Vikings have been over .500 since the 2009 season.
PonderWatch: Quarterback Christian Ponder accounted for three touchdowns and did not commit a turnover in what was probably his best start as a pro. He put some touch on a pair of touchdown passes to tight end Kyle Rudolph while putting appropriate zip on a key third-down completion to receiver Percy Harvin in the fourth quarter. Finally, he displayed intelligence and speed in pulling down the ball and sprinting 23 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. He completed 21 of 35 passes for 198 yards and another 33 on the ground.
Official chaos: Referee Ken Roan's replacement group had a tough day. It began with an impossible illegal block call on the 49ers, the kicking team on the opening kickoff. (Roan later reversed the call.) In the fourth quarter, meanwhile, Roan allowed the 49ers to take back their final timeout moments after calling it in order to challenge a play they believed Vikings tailback Toby Gerhart had fumbled on. That is not supposed to happen. Replays showed that Gerhart fumbled, but it appeared the play had been blown dead before that point. The replay showed umpire Tim Morris with his hand up -- which usually coincides with the whistle -- before Gerhart fumbled.
Defensive props: As well as Ponder played, we can't put this victory solely on his shoulders. It's been more than two years since we've seen the Vikings' defense show this kind of aggressiveness and zeal over the full 60 minutes of a game. Linebacker Chad Greenway might have played the best game of his life, sacking quarterback Alex Smith twice and finishing with 13 tackles. Cornerback Antoine Winfield played an inspired game. Backup safety Jamarca Sanford got into the act, forcing Frank Gore's first fumble of the season to end a fourth-quarter possession. And defensive end Jared Allen's sack/forced fumble ended the 49ers' final drive.
Streak ends: Josh Robinson's fourth-quarter interception was the Vikings' third in 14 games. But it ended Smith's streak of consecutive passes without an interception unofficially at 248.
Coaching decision: You normally don't see a team go for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line, as the Vikings did at the end of their first possession Sunday. But Leslie Frazier's decision to do it just seem inspired to me. The Vikings weren't going to beat the 49ers with field goals, and Ponder's successful pass to Rudolph energized both the team and the crowd. The Vikings never really looked back.
What's next: The Vikings will take on the Detroit Lions next Sunday at Ford Field.