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No-call on Justin Fields' intentional grounding was paramount in Vikings loss to Bears

If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, it would be Christmas all year 'round.
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There's not a soul in the world who thinks the Vikings deserved to win on Monday night after turning the ball over four times, failing to pick up a first down without the help of a penalty until the fourth quarter, and then not taking advantage of two Justin Fields fumbles in the final ten minutes of the game. 

But as head coach Kevin O'Connell lamented after the 12-10 loss, there are a lot of what-ifs after the yellow flags stayed stuffed in the pockets of the officials when Justin Fields might've deserved an intentional grounding penalty one play before he connected with D.J. Moore for the kill shot. 

With 1:15 left in the game the Bears were facing second-and-ten at the Minnesota 49-yard line when Danielle Hunter grabbed a hold of Fields, who whipped the ball out of bounds in the direction of nowhere close to a receiver in the area. Fields was inside the tackles so intentional grounding could've been called. 

"We got called on a similar play," O'Connell said after the game. "My question was how were the plays different? That's really what I was asking in that moment. Based upon what transpired from there, there's a lot of what-ifs you can ask. The very next play they made the play, caught a ball down the middle on us and got well in range for a pretty easy field goal there with really no time left."

On the next play, third-and-ten from the 49, Fields hit Moore for 36 yards to the 13-yard line. Minnesota had to burn three timeouts before Cairo Santos booted a 30-yard field goal with 10 seconds left, giving the Bears the 12-10 road win. 

If Fields had been penalized, it would've been a 15-yard penalty and a loss of down, backing the Bears into a third-and-25 situation from their own 36-yard line. 

By rule, flags should've been littered all over the field. Here's how the NFL rulebook defines intentional grounding

It is a foul for intentional grounding if a passer, facing an imminent loss of yardage because of pressure from the defense, throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion. A realistic chance of completion is defined as a pass that is thrown in the direction of and lands in the vicinity of an originally eligible receiver.

Fields' pass nearly sailed into the first row of fans behind the Chicago bench. The only reason not to call intentional grounding would've been if Fields had started his throwing motion before Hunter made contact with him, but Hunter had his arms around Fields before he started to throw the ball. 

But as former Vikings head coach Brad Childress used to say: "If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, it would be Christmas all year 'round."

Justin Fields

Justin Fields