EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Leslie Frazier, the usually mild-mannered head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, was visibly frustrated with the replacement officials in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win against the San Francisco 49ers and, according to them, he had reason to be.
Twice near the end of Minnnesota’s 24-13 win, San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh called a timeout and then tried to challenge the previous play. Harbaugh was successful after the first attempt, a fumble by Vikings running back Toby Gerhart that officials ruled as recovered by the 49ers and gave Harbaugh back his previous timeout.
But Harbaugh and San Francisco shouldn’t have been allowed to challenge the play because he had just used his final timeout of the game. And even after the challenge, Harbaugh shouldn’t have gotten the timeout back.
“He was trying to conserve time,” referee Ken Roan told a pool reporter following the game. “What he was doing was calling timeout immediately after the play was over, not knowing what the result of the play was, whether it was a challengeable play or whether it was not a challengeable play. So he called a timeout immediately after the play was over. Then realizing that, ‘Hey this is something that I want to challenge, but I just used my last timeout, can I challenge and get my timeout back? How does that work?’
“He asked the guys on the side and they came over and got me. What I told him was, ‘Well you challenged it not knowing what the result of the play was going to be.’ So I granted him the challenge and we went and looked at it. That was wrong. I should not have. In order to do that, he has to have two timeouts left.”
Roan further clarified, saying Harbaugh only needed one timeout. Teams must have at least one timeout in order to challenge a play.
Making matters worse, Harbaugh tried the same tactic a few minutes later after another Gerhart fumble. He again called the timeout, which he shouldn’t have had left, and then after time elapsed tried to challenge another play. Without a timeout left, he again shouldn’t have been allowed a challenge.
“My interpretation of it was that he could do that based upon the time factors and not knowing it was a challengeable play to begin with when he called timeout,” Roan said.
Frazier, who has been extremely careful in not criticizing the replacement officials, was upset by the two rulings and showed some of his anger toward the officials after the call.
“It was one of those things that we’ll have to get some clarification on Monday,” Frazier said after the game. “There were some head-scratchers. There was no question about it, but just proud of our guys for not getting caught up. We talked about this during the week, not getting caught up in anything other than playing the next play.”
Sunday’s game in Minnesota was another tough one for the officials, who started the game by calling an illegal block in the back on the opening kickoff — except the call was on the 49ers, who had kicked off. After marking off the yardage, and following a Harbaugh tirade, the officials conferred and said that the play wasn’t a penalty.
Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has spoken out on Twitter against the replacement officials. Sunday gave a few more Minnesota players reason to add to the many critics.
“All you can do is just play your game and try not to do what other teams have done and get into a yelling match,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “You’ve just got to let it happen and keep playing football. It was really weird how things were going. We didn’t even know what was going on. We thought it was a penalty because they had no timeouts. It was kind of a weird deal, but anyways, we got the win.”
Greenway knows there is an issue with the replacements.
“Well, I think the fact that we have to talk about it after every game is something right there,” Greenway said. “I don’t think in my seven-year career that I’ve had to do that ever. So that probably tells you the story right there.”
Raymond’s ankle injury could be “serious”: Starting safety Mistral Raymond was carted off the field at the end of the first quarter with a potentially serious ankle injury. Raymond was coming toward the line of scrimmage to support on a run by San Francisco back Frank Gore and appeared to get his foot caught in the turf after Gore made a cut.
Raymond went down immediately and was in obvious pain. Athletic trainers immobilized his entire left leg and he was lifted and taken off on a cart. Jamarca Sanford, who started 15 games last year, filled in for Raymond, a second-year player.
Frazier didn’t have much of an update after the game.
“From the naked eye, it looks like a very serious injury,” Frazier said. “But I don’t know all the details, so we’ll have to wait and see.”
Try, try again for Allen: Coming off his 22-sack campaign last year, Jared Allen had gone without a sack into Sunday. And he thought he had his first one of the season when he had 49ers quarterback Alex Smith in his hands. Smith slipped away, with Allen tugging on his ankle, allowing Smith to throw the ball away.
“I was pissed he didn’t fall when I hit him in the gut,” Allen said. “I guess I’ve just got to start jumping on their backs. It’s frustrating because I haven’t missed this many sacks hitting guys ever. I don’t think there was one last year I missed when I had a guy in my arms.”
Allen later did get his first sack, helping to wrap up the game by taking down Smith on San Francisco’s final play and stripping the ball, leading to Minnesota running out the clock.
“I always figure, at least I’m there,” Allen said. “It would be one thing if you’re not even getting close and you figure out why I’m not getting to the quarterback. Kevin and the other guys have just been saying, ‘Hey, you’re there. Just keep plugging, just keep plugging, keep plugging.’ The rush at the end was a rush I’d been trying to set up the whole game and the guard went down, he kicked out and I went to the inside shoulder.”
Allen said after the game that the neck injury that caused him to miss time was neck spasms and he said he should be fine going forward.
Walsh hits another long one: Rookie kicker Blair Walsh hit another field goal of 50-plus yards, connecting for a 52-yarder at the end of the first half. Connecting on the 50-plus field goals in three straight games set a new team record.
Gerhart’s fumbles: Leading to Harbaugh’s challenges were fumbles by the usually sure-handed Gerhart. Gerhart fumbled on three out of four carries at the end of the game while Minnesota was trying to run out the clock. He lost two of the three fumbles.
“They’re behind me 100 percent,” Gerhart said of his teammates. “I just feel crappy putting the ball on the ground in that situation.”