MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Referee Bill Leavy mistakenly penalized the Minnesota Vikings after coach Leslie Frazier tried to challenge a ruling on a muffed punt in the second quarter of Sunday’s game against Cleveland.
It was the second big miscue for Leavy’s crew in the season’s first three weeks.
When Browns punt returner Travis Benjamin muffed the punt, Vikings linebacker Larry Dean scooped the ball up and headed to the end zone. The officials correctly ruled the Vikings could not advance a muffed punt and awarded Minnesota the ball at the Cleveland 26.
Frazier threw the red flag to challenge. But NFL rules stipulate changes of possession can only be reviewed from the booth. Leavy then issued a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
But a rule change this offseason — the so-called “Jim Schwartz rule” which was written after the Lions coach challenged a touchdown last season —says the Vikings should have been charged a timeout and not penalized the yardage.
“A timeout should have been charged instead of a 15-yard penalty,” Leavy told a pool reporter after the Browns beat the Vikings, 31-27.
The error proved costly for the Vikings. Instead of a first-and-10 at the Browns 26 with two timeouts and over two minutes remaining in the first half, the Vikings were pushed back to a first-and-25 at the Cleveland 41. After three passes from Christian Ponder, they settled for a 43-yard field goal by Blair Walsh.
“It turned out to be a muff, which you can’t review,” Frazier said. “Should’ve been a timeout (taken away), but they walked off 15. Not sure why. But I can’t throw the red flag in that situation.”
Leavy’s crew was at the center of criticism in the first week when the San Francisco 49ers hosted Green Bay. The 49ers were given an extra third down in the first half of the game and wound up scoring a touchdown on it.
After a third-and-6 play at the Green Bay 10-yard line in the second quarter, quarterback Colin Kaepernick was hit out of bounds by Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, who was given a personal foul penalty. Niners tackle Joe Staley also received an unsportsmanlike conduct on the play. The league said the penalties were dead-ball fouls and the ball should have been spotted at the Packers 3 for a first down.
But the Niners got another third-and-6, and Kaepernick threw a 10-yard TD pass to Anquan Boldin.
Leavy acknowledged the error after that game as well.
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