The officials were relieved for this one.
On Sunday, the New York Giants survived a late drive by the Minnesota Vikings to win the wild-card game on the road. But the Vikings got a lot of help along the way.
With 2:33 left in the fourth quarter and the Giants leading 31-24, Kirk Cousins ran a second-and-4 from the Minnesota 18-yard line. Giants quarterback Dexter Lawrence immediately applied pressure and hit Cousins as the Vikings quarterback still had the ball.
Cousins got rid of the ball before Lawrence dragged him to the turf. The yellow flag then hit the field.
Officials called Lawrence for roughing a passerby. Instead of third-and-4 at the Minnesota 18, the Vikings faced first-and-10 at the 33, needing a touchdown to tie the game. Giants manager Brian Daboll was furious, and rightfully so.
Lawrence had Cousins in his hands while Cousins still had the ball. He didn’t drive her to the grass or land on her with her weight. He didn’t hit her high. He didn’t hit him low. The culprit appeared to be a glancing blow from Lawrence’s hand to Cousins’ facemask as he made contact.
That casual and fleeting contact could have affected the outcome of a playoff game. Fortunately for the NFL, it didn’t. The Vikings picked up another 15 yards after a penalty before turning the ball over on downs on fourth-and-8 that came up short of the bars.
The Giants won 31-24 and advanced to a divisional matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles. And the NFL doesn’t have to answer a series of controversies about why refereeing and roughing affected the outcome of a playoff game.