The Washington Commanders fell to 4-5 following a hard-fought loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. It’s a tough defeat for fans to swallow, as Washington squandered a 10-point fourth quarter lead. No play was bigger than Taylor Heinicke’s costly interception, as the Commanders never regained momentum.
Was that turnover the biggest play, though?
Some would argue the game’s defining play was Benjamin St-Juste’s overturned interception returned for a touchdown. The second-year cornerback was tasked with shadowing All-Pro Justin Jefferson and held up his end of the bargain.
On this specific play, the two players engaged in your standard hand-fighting as Kirk Cousins delivered the football. There was some grabbing on St-Juste’s part, but nothing that warranted a pass interference call to negate a pick-six.
The refs had other ideas, and Ron Rivera took issue with the call, as well as John Ridgeway’s killer penalty, while addressing the media on Monday.
Here’s a look at the St-Juste DPI.
Ron Rivera took issue with NFL officiating in the Commanders loss to the Vikings.
This play altered the outcome of the game. It came with the Commanders holding a 17-7 advantage with just under 14 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Had the pick-six stood, you’re talking about Washington taking a 24-7 lead (two touchdowns and a field goal) with less than a quarter to play.
All told, flags could’ve been called on both players, which would lead to a replay of downs and cancel out St-Juste’s touchdown. Still, it was a tacky call and defenders have been called for pass interference for A LOT less. Take it away, Rivera.
"“Well, a thing I struggle with is, you play the ball,” Rivera said. “You have two guys that are arm and arm. They clamp onto each other and are looking at the ball, and the ball gets thrown. I thought our guy played the ball. I got a chance to see that part of it, and our people replayed it again, and I saw it. It’s one of those things if two guys are battling for the ball and neither guy is given an advantage, you probably don’t throw that flag.”"
Both players should have a right to make a play on the ball. Rivera certainly thinks so, and he plans on sending the call to the league for clarification.
Rivera will do the same with Ridgeway’s unnecessary roughness penalty on fourth down with 1:52 left in regulation. The flag allowed the Vikings to milk the clock and kick the game-winning field goal with 12 seconds left.
Was it an unnecessary play by Ridgeway? Absolutely. It’s a chip-shot field goal. No reason to put the opposing center in a position to flop like he just got trucked and bate the officials into making a call. That much is obvious … but so is the fact that very few home teams get this called made against them in that spot.
"“I don’t agree with the call. I went and looked at it and looked at it and looked at it and looked at it, and I mean, he (Ridgeway) didn’t hit him wit his shoulder pads,” Rivera said. “He didn’t hit him with his helmet. He crossed over and caught him with his hip as we was going into the gap.”"
If Ridgeway’s left hand made any contact with the center’s helmet, it was minimum. If anything, the center was caught flat-footed by Ridgeway’s gap-switch, which forced the fall. The defensive lineman deserves his fair share of the blame, but Rivera’s frustration and demand for clarification are understandable, too.
Between St-Juste’s pass interference, Heinicke’s interception and Ridgeway’s unnecessary roughness, it’s no surprise the Commanders lost. For us, though, it all goes back to the St-Juste pick-six.
The game was never the same for Washington after that.