By: Peter Babb
To say that the Bears Monday night game was amazing, sloppy and controversial is putting the game in clean terms. In a nutshell, this game was chaotic for one reason, bad officiating. NFL referees have been a point of discussion for the past several seasons. They have left fans to ponder, what a catch is, what is pass interference and now this season, what is taunting?
The Bears for a vast majority of the game were trailing the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Bears were nearly shut out in the first half had it not been for Cairo Santos hitting a field goal before halftime to make it 14-3. The Bears heading into the fourth quarter were still trailing 20-6.
This is where the chaos of this game begins. The Bears begin a comeback at the beginning of the fourth quarter with a Darnell Mooney rushing touchdown. After the Steelers went down the field to score three points after a Chris Boswell field goal, the score was 23-13.
The Bears on the kickoff fumbled the ball to give the Steelers possession, however, the Steelers punted the ball away after the Bears defense made crucial stops.
The Bears then punted the ball on their next possession. On the return, Steelers punt returner Ray-Ray McCloud fumbled and the Bears returned it for a touchdown. This is despite replay showing that McCloud appeared to be down before the ball came loose. The Bears now trail the Steelers 23-20.
Mind you, this is still the fourth quarter.
This is where the controversy sets in. During the Pittsburgh drive, Bears linebacker Cassius Marsh, who was promoted from the practice squad on Monday, sacked Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on third down.
After the play, Marsh was flagged for taunting for staring down the Steelers bench. Taking away a fourth down and giving the Steelers a first down to continue the drive. Pittsburgh then went on a three-minute drive that ended in another Boswell field goal to make the game 26-20.
The Steeler defense did not stop Bears quarterback Justin Fields from marching down the field and finding Darnell Mooney in the endzone in just one minute of game time. The Bears take the lead 27-26 with around one minute left to play. Sadly, Roethlisberger led the Steelers down the field to set up another Boswell field goal to take back the lead, 29-27.
The Bears went back down the field to set up a field goal for Santos, however, all the Bears could do is set up a 65-yard field goal attempt. Santos missed the field goal and the Steelers escaped the game with a controversial 29-27 win.
After the game, head referee Tony Corrente talked about the taunting on Marsh. Saying, “I saw the player after he made a big play, run toward the bench area of the Pittsburgh Steelers and posture in such a way that I felt he was taunting them.”
However, Marsh had a different take on what happened. Marsh accused Corrente of hip-checking him before throwing the flag, calling the action “Incredibly inappropriate”. “On my way to the sideline, I got hip-checked by the ref. It’s pretty clear,” Marsh said after the game.
“I think that one was just bad timing. It’s pretty clear to everybody who saw it that I wasn’t taunting,” Marsh said. “I’ve been doing the celebration my whole career. It’s just sad to see stuff like that happen in a close game like that.”
Videos began to circulate on social media last night that confirmed what Marsh said. Corrente said that he does not recall interacting with Marsh after the play.
Marsh’s teammates came to his defense, with linebacker Roquan Smith calling the penalty “BS.” Many analysts, fans and NFL players called out the officials for swaying the game in the Steeler’s favor.
However, if the NFL follows its track record when it comes to controversial calls or actions, the officials will not face any discipline.
The Bears fall to 3-6 on the year and are now in third place in the NFC North. While the Steelers improve to 5-3 and go to second place in the AFC North. The Bears luckily have a bye next week.
They will have to regroup and salvage the rest of the season as the schedule does not get any easier for the team.