There's no question that multiple fines, two ejections and a two-game suspension for lowering his helmet to initiate contact with an opponent has not sunk in for Broncos safety Kareem Jackson, who somehow got away with an egregious violation when he launched the crown of his helmet into Vikings quarterback Joshua Dobbs' neck and facemask on the critical third snap of the Broncos' 21-20 win at Empower Field at Mile High Stadium on Sunday night.
When asked if Jackson should have been flagged, coach Kevin O'Connell said: "On the field, it felt like that. I'll have to go back and look at it. Coming from the second level the way he did, it seemed like a pretty direct helmet-to-helmet hit but I'm sure they saw it differently.
"They're officiating a fast play there, but, yes, I do believe regardless of whether it's your quarterback running the ball, receivers, running back, tight end, the rule as far as how it states and how it's talked about … it happened fast out there, but we'll have to take a look at it. … The rule is what it is. They didn't throw the flag."
On Monday night, the NFL suspended Jackson for four games for "repeated violations" of player safety rules, citing Jackson lowering his head and making "forcible contact with his helmet" on Dobbs.
With that out of the way, let's take a look at what happened before Jackson's hit and how it led to the Vikings turning the ball over for the fifth time in 11 opening possessions this season.
There were many nits to pick with how the Vikings lost this game. Three turnovers and no takeaways was the bottom-line story line of this night, so this observer decided the best place to start was at the beginning, with O'Connell's play-call on third-and-1.
So the first question to a bright football mind who's still very much in contention for NFL Coach of the Year was: "Why run the play you ran on the third snap of the game?"
Tight end T.J. Hockenson motioned under center, took the snap and pitched the ball to Dobbs.
That sure seems like a lot of unnecessary moving parts and demands for short-yardage precision in the NFL's "Tush Push" Era. Somewhere, Jason Kelce, Jalen Hurts and Philadelphia's Master Tush Pushers were laughing at a gadget play being called with a yard to gain.
So, sorry, Kev, but gotta ask what's up with that call?
"If the play works, we're probably excited about it," said O'Connell, who was as close to annoyed as his pleasant personality probably allows.
"I would say this much, that we feel Josh Dobbs provides an element of our offense that we want to use. The execution was not what we would have liked on the play. No matter what, we can't turn the ball over. I know [Dobbs] took a pretty good shot to the helmet on the play and he was evaluated [for a concussion] after that. The way we ran it, most of the night, I liked the call in the moment, especially early in the game. But it didn't work out."
Perfect execution would make any call work. Rarely, however, is there perfect execution.
Plus, how would moving Hockenson under center with Dobbs behind him confuse a defense? If anything, it probably was a flashing light that Dobbs was getting the ball from Hockenson with no pass option.
How would moving Hockenson under center set up another play later on? Is he going to drop back and sling it?
The play broke down quickly. Left guard Dalton Risner allowed inside linebacker Alex Singleton to scrape through the line and redirect Dobbs to the inside. That was enough to allow outside linebacker Baron Browning to grab Dobbs, hold him up and begin stripping him of the ball. Dobbs has lost three of six fumbles in three weeks as a Viking.
Running back Alexander Mattison and left tackle Christian Darrisaw weren't on the same page, leaving two lead blockers with one guy to block as Jackson raced in untouched from 10 yards deep. Hockenson also missed an opportunity to block Jackson.
"There's a one block, a two block and a three block, and I don't think we got all those," O'Connell said when asked if the Broncos reacted to the call the way he expected.
"It looked like we got the play started but, yeah, I'll have to take a look at it. Listen, I know that was a critical play early on in the football game, but there was a lot of football after that."
The Vikings held the Broncos to nine points off turnovers. Amazing, considering two of the turnovers went to the Vikings' 30- and 9-yard lines.
The Broncos had won three straight entering the game. They were plus-8 in turnover differential with nine takeaways in those games.
And the Vikings handed them three points before the first commercial break. Vikings opponents have now been gifted 20 points on five first-possession turnovers, including a pick-six. The other six opening drives produced two three-and-outs, another punt after four plays, a missed field goal and two field goals.
"We do not have the margin of error to waste plays," O'Connell said.
Or play calls.