49ers Star Claps Back at Vikings Over Cheating Allegations

George Kittle

Getty George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers.

The San Francisco 49ers won their fourth game in a row Sunday, but Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said they didn’t come by it honest.

Zimmer took to the podium during the postgame press conference on November 28 to call out the Niners’ defensive backfield for its tactics, as well as the referees for keeping their whistles holstered, specifically during the final and deciding drive of the game.

“These guys hold all the time,” Zimmer said of San Francisco’s defensive backs. “They’re grabbing us around the waist, grabbing us on our backs. Officials don’t want to call it every play, but until they start calling it every play, they aren’t going to stop doing it.”

Zimmer took issue with several plays during the game, though one stood out above the others. San Francisco cornerback K’Waun Williams defended a pass from Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins to wide receiver Justin Jefferson on a 4th-and-8 play that gave possession of the ball back to the Niners and allowed them to run out the clock.

The 49ers went on to beat the Vikings 34-26 in what could prove a crucial outcome for San Francisco’s playoff chances. The Niners were tied with the Vikings at 5-5 and had the postseason began Sunday, San Francisco would have been the 7th and final team in the NFC bracket while Minnesota would have also earned a Wildcard berth as the 6th seed. In a crowded race for the final three playoff spots, the Niners now hold a crucial tiebreaker over one of their primary competitors.

Niners George Kittle Responded Strongly to Zimmer’s Criticisms

Mike Zimmer

GettyMinnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer had a lot of complaints after losing to the San Francisco 49ers on November 28, 2021.

The Niners’ All-Pro tight end George Kittle did not take kindly to Zimmer’s comments, equating them to excuse making in so many words and pointing out that non-calls went both ways on Sunday.

Cam Inman, of the Bay Area News Group, posted video of Kittle’s postgame comments to Twitter.

“I mean, you can watch plenty of pass plays. I finally got a holding call out there on a pass route. I got hugged and tackled, and I think (there were) about three of those out there that don’t get called,” Kittle said. “It’s football. Refs throw flags, refs don’t throw flags, it’s just the game. If you’re going to sit on the sideline and complain about holding the whole time, tell your guys to make better plays.”

Zimmer’s Complaints Can be Valid and Still not Hold Water

K'Waun Williams 49ers

Getty49ers cornerback K’Waun Williams after making a play against the Green Bay Packers.

As Zimmer pointed out, NFL referees don’t want to call defensive holding or pass interference on every play. As a practical matter, they can’t lest every game become a parade of yellow flags.

Much the same as in the defensive backfield, the offensive lines of most teams could also be whistled for holding on just about every play from scrimmage, an outcome that would also prove untenable.

To Kittle’s point, the refs do the best they can to call the egregious offenses of holding and interference, and render the officiating more or less even on both sides. Thus, complaining about calls, or a lack of calls, on the opponent tends to be as fruitless as it is lacking in self-awareness as to the actions of one’s own team.

In either case, Zimmer’s words won’t change the outcome of the game, though they are likely to bring down a fine from the NFL’s main office, which never allows criticism of referees to go unpunished.

In the meantime, the Niners have now won three in a row and are headed north for a pivotal NFC West Division showdown with the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, December 5.

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