An "inadvertent whistle" enabled the Minnesota Vikings to beat the New Orleans Saints, 20-10, today, Saints Coach Bum Phillips charged.
The controversial call negated an apparent New Orleans touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
The call -- which Viking Coach Bud Grant called "terrible" -- came when defensive end Jim Wilson blocked a pass by Tommy Kramer. New Orleans' other defensive end, Frank Warren, caught the ball and ran into the end zone. But officials said an "inadvertent whistle" had blown, stopping the play, and ruled it an incomplete pass.
Line judge Boyce Smith had no particular reason for blowing the whistle, referee Dick Jorgensen said. "I think 'inadvertent' answers it," he added.
Phillips disagreed. "It was not an inadvertent whistle, it was an incompetent whistle -- let's make that clear. You can't kill a ball that is in the air."
Grant called the decision "the biggest play of the game, and it went in our favor."
Warren, who picked off the ball inside the 10, said a touchdown at that time "would have turned the game around for us."
The victory improved Minnesota's record to 6-4 and boosted the Vikings' lead in the NFC Central Division to two games over Tampa Bay. New Orleans dropped to 3-8.
The Vikings' offense was led by Kramer, who surpassed 10,000 career yards while throwing for 287 yards and a touchdown.
Rookie George Rogers, who was held to 97 yards on 31 carries, plunged from the one-yard line with 6:59 left in the game for the Saints' only touchdown.