Regular readers of this site know that I'm an avid Green Bay Packers fan. At first glance, then, some might wonder how I can write this article. The truth is, I can recognize a controversy when I see one. And the trick punt return by the Bears near the end of yesterday's Packers-Bears game definitely qualifies.
If you watched the game, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you didn't, HuffPo explains:
When the Packers punted with just over a minute left in the fourth quarter while holding a 27-17 lead, the Bears executed one of the most mesmerizing trick plays in recent NFL history.
And, it all began with Hester signaling for a fair catch.
As Green Bay's coverage team converged on Hester as he looked skyward and waved his arm, Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox was actually catching the ball on the far sideline. All alone, Knox sprinted up the fringe of Soldier Field. By the time that the Pack realized that the ball hadn't been kicked to Hester, Knox was long gone. He would score on the play, seemingly putting the Bears in position to attempt an onside kick to prolong their comeback bid.
Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Not really. See, some yellow laundry (a flag) was thrown on the play for holding. There's only one problem: no one can seem to find the holding. Here's the video and the announcers' reactions:
The play was brilliant. The officiating on it, though, was questionable.
“It worked for us,” Knox told the Chicago Sun-Times after the game. “But unfortunately, it was a bad call. Corey didn’t even touch him. That’s a play we wish we could have back.”
"Corey" is Corey Graham, the player who was allegedly responsible for the hold. Or was he? From HuffPo:
Then, as if the call couldn't get any more absurd, Joe Buck chimes in and tells Aikman and FOX viewers that it wasn't No. 21 that the referees had flagged for holding. Buck says a member of the FOX crew informed him that it had been called on No. 29. Only problem is that there was no one with that number on the field for the Bears.
It's worth noting that the touchdown would have only brought the Bears withing three points. But it's also worth noting that the Packers didn't finish the game playing their best football. Is it possible the Bears could have come back? Definitely. Their best chance, however, was squashed with the penalty.
But the worst part may be this: because it was a trick play, it was probably a one-shot deal. Now teams are going to be on the lookout for it, and it will be nearly impossible to pull off again.
The Packers fan in me is rejoicing. The sports fan in me is kind of bummed.
As some e-mailers and commenters have pointed out, there could be some video evidence supporting the official here. At about three seconds into the video, in the upper left of the screen, it appears a Bears player does have his hand on the shoulder of a Packers player. Here's the screen grab:
Maybe that's it. If it is, the controversy then becomes: Was that really a hold?
In the end, yes -- because if the official says it is, then it is. But for those who are maybe not so technical and more philosophical, debate it out in the comments. Hold, or no hold?