The NFL has admitted that a hit on Brett Favre on a play that resulted in a key interception in the NFC championship game should have drawn a penalty flag, according to ESPN.com.
Had a penalty flag been thrown, the Vikings would have had a first down at the Saints' 19-yard line, with the score tied at 21 late in the third quarter. Instead, New Orleans halted the drive as MLB Jonathan Vilma intercepted Favre's pass on that same play.
Inevitably, the league's admission will cause Vikings fans to wonder how a penalty flag might have affected the outcome of a game that New Orleans won 31-28 in overtime.
On the play in question, Saints DE Bobby McCray hit Favre low, injuring Favre's left ankle and causing the 40-year-old quarterback to be helped off the field. After getting medical attention on the sideline, Favre returned for the Vikings' next offensive series at the start of the fourth quarter.
Coincidentally, the league announced Friday that it had fined McCray $20,000 for unnecessary roughness on two plays in that game. The first play occurred in the first quarter, when McCray hit Favre after he had handed the ball off to WR Percy Harvin. McCray was penalized for unnecessary roughness on the play, giving Minnesota a first down and ultimately leading to a touchdown that gave the Vikings a 14-7 lead. The second instance of roughness by McCray was the aforementioned third-quarter hit on Favre on the pass that was intercepted by Vilma.
"It's the type of hit that we don't want," NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira said, "... because clearly we're trying to protect the knees and we need to focus on this to make sure we don't miss [them]."
Pereira appeared on NFL Network this week, as he does regularly, explaining why McCray's hit below the knee should have drawn a flag.
"Pretty much a direct shot into the back of [Favre's] legs," Pereira said of the hit, according to ESPN.com.
The revelation of the fines for McCray's hits comes during a week when Saints defensive coordinator has said his unit will need to deliver some "remember-me shots" on Colts QB Peyton Manning.
PFW has launched its brand-new NFL Draft Newsletter series, with the second issue now ready for mailing and a third issue focusing on underclassmen to be published in the next few weeks. Produced by PFW's player personnel department under the direction of Nolan Nawrocki, the series consists of four information-packed issues. For more info or to subscribe — click here for PDF e-pub or here for print format. You can also find details about other draft-related publications in the PFW store.