There were two instances in the Vikings' loss to the Broncos on Sunday night where the home team appeared to get away with a helmet-to-helmet hit against a Minnesota ballcarrier.
Very early on the game's opening possession, the Vikings faced a 3rd and 1 and tried to get a little tricky by having T.J. Hockenson take the snap and pitch it to Josh Dobbs. The play resulted in a turnover — the first of three on the day for the visiting team — when Baron Browning ripped the ball out of Dobbs' grasp. Just as Browning had gotten the ball out, veteran safety Kareem Jackson showed up and drilled Dobbs up high.
"We feel like Josh Dobbs provides an element to our offense that we want to try to use," Kevin O'Connell said after the game. "Execution was not what we would've liked on the play. No matter what, we can't turn the football over. I do know he took a pretty good shot to the helmet on the play."
On the NBC broadcast, officiating analyst Terry McAulay said he thought Jackson should've been penalized for the hit. He was leading with his helmet and connected with Dobbs' helmet.
Terry McAulay said on the NBC broadcast that Kareem Jackson should’ve been penalized for this hit on Josh Dobbs. pic.twitter.com/fP5TABQ8ha— Will Ragatz (@WillRagatz) November 20, 2023
"On the field, it felt like that," O'Connell said when asked if he thought there should've been a flag. "I'll have to go back and look at it. Tends to happen pretty fast out there. But in the moment, coming from the second level the way he did, it seemed like a pretty direct helmet-to-helmet type hit. I'm sure they saw it differently."
Jackson, notably, has been fined and ejected multiple times and recently served a two-game suspension for dangerous hits like that one this season. Dobbs was briefly evaluated for a concussion but was able to stay in the game.
"The rule is what it is," O'Connell said. "They didn't throw the flag."
Had a flag been thrown for unnecessary roughness there, the fumble would've been negated and the Vikings would've had the ball near midfield. Instead, the Broncos turned the takeaway into an early 3-0 lead.
It happened again later in the game. In the fourth quarter, Dobbs dumped a pass off to Alexander Mattison, who was already being tackled by multiple Broncos when linebacker Alex Singleton led with his head and drilled a defenseless Mattison in the head/shoulder area. That no-call had less of a direct impact on the game, as the Vikings were able to pick up a new set of downs a few plays later.
Sure feels like Alex Singleton could've been penalized for this hit on Mattison pic.twitter.com/dY0dDz0pQA— Will Ragatz (@WillRagatz) November 20, 2023
Those two plays certainly aren't the reason the Vikings lost the game, but it'll be interesting to see if either Jackson or Singleton are fined for their unpenalized hits this week.
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