Did the NFL want the Vikings to lose to the Bucs on Sunday?

(Photo by Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports) Kirk Cousins
(Photo by Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports) Kirk Cousins /

The Minnesota Vikings had to deal with more than just the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

First, let’s just make it very clear the game officials were not the main reason why the Minnesota Vikings lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. The Vikings made plenty of mistakes that ended up being too difficult to overcome.

However, the refs on the field for the matchup didn’t make Minnesota’s attempt to get a win over the Bucs any easier.

Following some of the calls that were made by the refs on Sunday, it’s completely fair to wonder if some of these decisions happened in order to give Tampa Bay a better chance to leave the field with a win?

Did the refs cost the Minnesota Vikings a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

By looking at the box score, one could easily choose to dismiss the possibility of the Bucs being aided by the game officials after seeing that both teams in the contest ended the day with the same amount of penalties (five).

Tampa Bay was flagged for defensive holding, a horse-collar tackle, a false start, and for jumping offsides twice. The Bucs’ five penalties ended up awarding the Vikings 34 yards.

However, Tampa committed multiple personal fouls that were not penalized by Sunday’s game officials. No flags were thrown when Minnesota’s Chad Beebe was delivered with a late-hit after being tackled on a punt return in the first quarter or when a blow to the head was delivered to Kirk Cousins in the fourth quarter.

Instead, the refs decided to penalize Vikings safety Harrison Smith for a helmet-to-helmet hit when he clearly led with his shoulder and only made contact with the helmet of Bucs running back LeSean McCoy after McCoy lowered his own head to initiate contact.

A few plays later, Sunday’s game officials threw a flag on Minnesota cornerback Jeff Gladney for defensive pass interference after Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans slipped on his own and failed to come up with the touchdown catch. Gladney actually ended up coming away with an interception on the play, but it was negated due to the pass interference call.

Then right before the end of the first half is where things really got interesting (and suspicious). On the final play of the second quarter, Bucs quarterback Tom Brady tossed a Hail Mary into the end zone and it resulted in an incomplete pass.

However, the refs decided to penalize the Vikings for a terrible defensive pass interference call in the end zone and Tampa Bay wound up kicking a field goal from Minnesota’s one-yard line. This was the first time since 2009 that an offensive or defensive pass interference call has been made on a Hail Mary pass. How convenient.

Two officials were in the end zone on the play and the flag ended up being thrown by the ref who was furthest away from the action while the official who was closer, ruled the pass incomplete.

People are free to interpret the events on Sunday however they wish. But in a year where the NFL will likely lose millions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is it that crazy to think that the league would rather make sure that the TV ratings machine that is Brady and the Bucs earn a spot in the playoffs instead of Cousins and the Vikings?

It must have also been just a coincidence that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was in attendance for Sunday’s game in Tampa too, right?