Monday, December 27, 2004

Explanation not good Enough

By Larry Mayer, from the official site of the Chicago Bears
After further review, the Bears still believe that they were victimized by an incorrect call late in Sunday's 19-13 loss to the Detroit Lions.

Bernard Berrian's apparent 43-yard touchdown reception would have given Chicago the lead with 1:26 remaining, but field judge Lee Dyer ruled that the rookie receiver was out of bounds.

Though Berrian clearly got both feet in-bounds, referee Terry McAulay upheld the decision that it was an incomplete pass, explaining after a replay review that the ball moved when the receiver hit the ground.

A day later, the NFL backed its officials and did not offer the Bears an apology.

"The ruling on it was that we didn't have control," coach Lovie Smith said Monday after discussing the matter with the league office. "Bernard had two feet in-bounds as we all know. The NFL office is saying that he didn't have control when he landed out of bounds.

"Just because you have two feet in-bounds doesn't mean that it's a catch if you land out of bounds without control. That's what they say the ruling was based on. Of course, I still see it differently and we'll move from there."

Watching replays of the disputed call on the scoreboard, Bears players celebrated while Lions coach Steve Mariucci and quarterback Joey Harrington huddled on the sideline to discuss plans for a two-minute drill with no timeouts remaining.

"I thought it might have been a touchdown like you did," Mariucci told a reporter after the game.

Had the field judge not incorrectly ruled that Berrian was out of bounds, there likely wouldn't have been enough evidence to reverse the decision after a replay review.

"I don't think that he had a good view to really make the call," Smith said. "He went with that. Once they review it, though, now everything comes into play (including) this official ruling that they're going on now (that Berrian didn't have control).

"Initially, the official down there said that he was out of bounds; that he did not get two feet in-bounds. Of course that wasn't the case. But once they looked at it and they had a chance to look at it over and over like we have, that's what the ruling said."

While Smith remains convinced that the Bears should have been awarded a touchdown, he's turning his attention to Sunday's season finale against the Green Bay Packers.

Bernard Berrian holds the ball aloft after being ruled out of bounds.
"You know what I saw," he said. "I saw-with my great vision that I have-two feet in with possession as he went down. That's what I think I saw. That's what a lot of Bear fans I think saw from it. I still say the same thing and I have looked at it a few times to say the least. I did look at it a few times. Now we're looking at Green Bay."

The Bears committed eight penalties in Sunday's loss, raising their season total to 120, two short of the team record set in 1948. Chicago has the youngest squad in the NFL and a first-year head coach, but Smith doesn't think officials are unfairly targeted the Bears because of those factors.

"I can't look at it that way at all," he said. "I have to think that all officials go out there and make the right call based on how they see it. They don't even really care who the two teams are that are playing at the time. That's the only way for us to look at it. That's the only way we will."

Monday, December 13, 2004

Offense costs Bears in Loss

by Larry Mayer, from the official of the Chicago
The offensive resurgence sparked by new Bears quarterback Chad Hutchinson came to an abrupt end Sunday in Jacksonville.

One week after throwing a career-high three touchdown passes in his first start in a win over the Vikings, Hutchinson failed to lead a woeful offense into the end zone in a crushing 22-3 loss to the Jaguars that all but eliminated the Bears from playoff contention.

"We had our backs up against the wall," said coach Lovie Smith. "It was a disappointing loss. A goal of ours was to get to 9-7. Of course we felt we had to win this game. We put an awful lot on the game as far as having to win it and we didn't get that done."

In a performance reminiscent of when quarterbacks Jonathan Quinn and Craig Krenzel were directing the offense, the Bears mustered 210 total yards and 10 first downs, converted just 2 of 12 third-down opportunities and yielded a back-breaking safety.

Overwhelmed by an onslaught of Jacksonville blitzes, Hutchinson completed 17 of 33 passes for 212 yards with five sacks, one interception and a lost fumble as the Bears (5-8) lost for the third time in four games since a three-game winning streak.

"I felt good, but that's the NFL," Hutchinson said.

Adding injury to insult, Brian Urlacher limped off the field late in the game after injuring his left hamstring. The Pro Bowl middle linebacker missed the entire preseason and two regular season games with a pulled right hamstring.

When asked about the severity of the injury, Smith said: "As far as how bad, I don't really know. Hamstring, that kind of tells you all you need to know. So we'll see and go from there."

Though the Bears offense registered its lowest point total of the season, Smith spread the blame for the loss. The defense allowed Byron Leftwich to pass for 242 yards and 2 TDs without being sacked and Paul Edinger missed a field goal that would have drawn the Bears to within 7-3.

Send in a question for Lovie Smith to answer on Bears Insider Monday at 6 p.m. on WSCR 670 AM.

"Offensively, we never really got into a rhythm," Smith said. "We weren't able to really establish the run. We hit a few passes here and there, but we weren't able to finish the job. Defensively, I felt like we were able to slow them down as far as the run was concerned, but they were able to get some big pass plays on us.

"You can't blame one group. It was a team loss for us."

Penalties killed the Bears. They were flagged 13 times for 104 yards and had two other infractions declined by the Jaguars.

The two costliest fouls were committed by the defense: a phantom illegal contact call against safety Mike Green on a third-down incompletion gave the Jaguars a first down en route to their first touchdown and a roughing-the-passer penalty on cornerback Charles Tillman wiped out a turnover and led to a Jacksonville field goal.

"Either we're that undisciplined or something was wrong today," said defensive end Alex Brown. "We don't make that many penalties, but for some reason they got called. When something went right for us, they'd bring it back. It was crazy out there."

The Bears held running back Fred Taylor to 79 yards on 21 carries, but they were hurt through the air.

Leftwich's 6-yard TD pass to rookie receiver Reggie Williams gave the Jaguars a 7-0 lead with 3:18 left in the first quarter.

The Bears seemingly had stopped Jacksonville when Green broke up a third down pass intended for receiver Ernest Wilford. But Green was penalized for illegal contact, giving the Jaguars a first down at the 7.

After opening the game with four straight three-and-out possessions, Hutchinson's 45-yard pass to Thomas Jones put the Bears in scoring position. But Edinger hooked a 47-yard field goal attempt wide left with 11:28 remaining in the second quarter.

The Jaguars (7-6) were about to double their lead, but Leftwich's apparent 33-yard TD pass to wide open tight end Todd Yoder was nullified by a holding penalty on left tackle Bob Whitfield.

Edinger's 42-yard field goal cut the deficit to 7-3 with 1:44 left in the half. Hutchinson's 38-yard strike to rookie Bernard Berrian gave the Bears a first down at the 12. But blitzing linebacker Jason Gildon sacked Hutchinson for a loss of 14 on third-and-eight from the 10.

The Jaguars responded by marching 56 yards on eight plays, extending their lead to 10-3 on Josh Scobee's 30-yard field goal with :31 left in the half.

Scobee's 25-yard field goal widened the margin to 13-3 with 5:36 remaining in the third quarter. The kick followed a 15-yard penalty on Tillman that nullified a takeaway.

Green stripped Yoder after a 4-yard reception and Urlacher returned the fumble 11 yards to the Chicago 32. But Tillman was flagged for delivering a forearm shiver just under Leftwich's facemask after the quarterback had released the ball.

After Chris Hanson pinned the Bears at their own 4 with a 50-yard punt, blitzing linebacker Daryl Smith sacked Hutchinson in the end zone for a safety, widening the margin to 15-3 with 13:48 left in the fourth quarter.

Blitzing constantly, the Jaguars took advantage of a Bears offensive line that was missing left guard Ruben Brown, who's out for the season following neck surgery, and right tackle John Tait, who missed his second straight game with a sprained right knee.

"They brought a lot more blitzes than we had seen on film," said center Olin Kreutz. "I've said it a thousand times: communication is my job. It's my job to put the guys on the right guys and if guys are confused out there, that's my fault. They blitzed a lot and I didn't get it done."

Leftwich's 31-yard TD pass to Smith on third-and-27 gave the Jaguars a 22-3 lead four
minutes later. Smith beat Tillman to the right corner of the end zone on an all-out blitz. Tillman was flagged for pass interference on the play and then penalized for being offside on the extra point.

After two short completions gave the Bears a first down at the Jacksonville 31, Hutchinson's pass into double coverage intended for David Terrell was intercepted by safety Donovin Darius near the goal line.

Rookie Nathan Vasher registered his team-leading fifth interception of the season late in the game, returning the pick 38 yards to the Jacksonville 15. But Hutchinson was pressured into three incompletions and was sacked on a drive that typified Chicago's offensive frustrations.

Smith couldn't hide his disappointment after the Bears were all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but the first-year coach vowed that there would be better days ahead.

"I'm still surprised at the way we played," Smith said. "I thought that we would play better. We don't know the reason why. Our preparation was good last week.

"You're going to have games like this and I think it's as simple as that. It was a bad game for us at the wrong time, but we'll have our day. We have three more to go and we'll have a smile on our face before long."