A day after the Vikings became the first prominent victim of an under-the-radar wrinkle in the NFL’s new pass interference review process, coach Mike Zimmer said the league needs to be more diligent in how it handles the penalty.
The Vikings had a touchdown taken away in the second quarter of Sunday’s loss at Green Bay, when a review of Kirk Cousins’ pass to Stefon Diggs led officials in the league’s New York offices to call pass interference on Dalvin Cook for a downfield block on Packers safety Darnell Savage. It was based on what NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Alberto Riveron called “clear and obvious visual evidence that No. 33 [Cook] significantly hinders the opponent [Savage] while the ball is in the air.”
On Sunday, Cook said he didn’t even know the penalty was on him. “I can’t explain it,” he said.
Zimmer said Monday that officials generally have done a good job communicating with him about the mechanics of the challenge process. But he insisted the league misread Cook’s intent when it called the penalty.
“The guy was not trying to block anybody,” Zimmer said. “He was trying to get out of the way.”
After the 10-yard penalty, Cousins overthrew tight end Kyle Rudolph and the Vikings ended up kicking a 31-yard field goal in a game they went on to lose 21-16. On Monday, Zimmer said the penalty was a “bad call” and that even as much as officials are looking for the penalty — which was called three times on the Vikings and once on the Packers — they’re still missing some examples of it in some games.
“I’m just sitting up there watching some tape right now and there was some offensive pass interferences that they missed in the game that I’m watching,” Zimmer said. “They need to start being more diligent with what they’re doing.”
The Vikings were one of 31 teams to approve a rule change making pass interference reviewable this spring, in the wake of the uproar over the penalty that was not called on Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman at the end of the team’s NFC Championship Game win over the Saints. Even as owners moved full-speed toward the change this spring, many coaches favored a process that would allow a booth official to review pass interference calls, according to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert. Zimmer told Seifert this spring he worried about the ramifications of analyzing plays at “100 frames per second.”
The league, Zimmer said, made coaches aware this spring that under the new rules, they could find pass interference penalties while reviewing plays for other reasons. On Monday, he said the league opened itself to a host of outcomes in its effort to deal with the NFC title game no-call.
“I think maybe they decided that they were going to fix the play in the championship game, and there’s been some unintended consequences from it,” Zimmer said. “That’s how it is. Just got to play by the rules and do what we’re supposed to do.”