First & Long: NFL Officiating Department Admits MNF Errors, Bears Midseason Grades, Mahomes Lights Up Raiders

The NFL will rarely admit it’s wrong, even after reviewing game films, and analysis of Monday night’s 29-27 loss to the Steelers offered no redemption from the league for a number of questionable calls that went against the Bears. In fact, the NFL doubled down on Cassius Marsh, fining him for a ridiculous taunting call by referee Tony Corrente. Marsh will pay the league $5,792 for the perceived offense.

Privately, members of the NFL’s officiating department who reviewed the game acknowledged that their Monday night crew were incorrect on at least three separate critical calls and non-calls that went against the Bears in the loss. That includes a below-the-knees block penalty on guard James Daniels that nullified a Justin Fields touchdown pass, sources familiar with the league’s thinking said. That call probably cost Chicago the win.

But there was another missed infraction that the league should be accountable for, and that was a non-call on a late hit against Fields by linebacker Alex Highsmith. An infraction on that play would have given the Bears 15 yards and a first down on a critical 3rd quarter drive. Chicago was flagged for a nearly identical offense against Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger earlier in the contest.

The call against Marsh was a judgment call, so there’s no way the NFL would admonish Corrente publicly, nor could the league let Marsh go unpunished. The officials are the eyes of the league on those types of calls, and there’s no concrete evidence to overturn what Corrente claims he saw and/or heard. NFL senior vice president of officiating Perry Fewell indicated in a social media video the call was correct, and Marsh, the Bears, and their fans will have to live with it until the league gets rid of what amounts to an indefensible offense.

Still, you have to admire the officiating crew’s consistency in flagging the Bears while ignoring offenses committed by the Steelers. As the game was ending and Cairo Santos was attempting an impossible 65-yard game-winning field goal, the replay showed a number of Pittsburgh linemen had encroached the neutral zone, but no penalty was called. The extra five yards may have been enough for Santos to win the game, though the kick fell about 6-7 yards short after initially looking like it hit the crossbar.

Regardless, you could very well say that officiating decided the game and perhaps Santos never would have been put in a position to try to win it with such a low-probability kick. Video evidence suggests the referees will be graded appropriately, but that won’t put any points on the board or give the Bears a win. It would be remiss to not mention that Chicago lacks discipline far too often, something that influences the way their games are officiated. Matt Nagy will need to own that aspect of the controversy, and until he does something to correct it, expect Chicago to “bear” the brunt of borderline and questionable penalties going forward.

Bears News & Notes

There’s a Flag… On the Play

It’s not nice to get your hopes up, yet here we are. The Bears are the current No. 15 seed in the NFC and have a 4% chance of making the playoffs per

Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust

  1. Fields had more high-level throws in Monday’s game against the Steelers than any rookie has had in a single game this year.
  2. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was shut out for the first time in his NFL career yesterday in a 17-0 loss to the Packers. The last time the Seahawks were shut out was in Week 2 of the 2011 season (lost 24-0 to Steelers).
  3. The Lions didn’t lose yesterday, but they tied the Steelers and are now 0-8-1 on the season. They have not won a game since Week 7 of the 2020 season.

Northern Exposure

Though Aaron Rodgers looked a lot like a guy who missed a game and nearly two full weeks of practice, Green Bay’s defense showed championship form yesterday.

Packers running back Aaron Jones left Sunday’s 17-0 win over the Seahawks in the third quarter with a knee injury, and a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter the team believes Jones suffered a sprained MCL.

The Lions and Steelers played to a 16-16 tie, assuring Detroit can’t finish 0-17. Only in the Motor City can a tie feel like a victory.

Vikings WR Justin Jefferson had his best game of the season, leading Minnesota to a much-needed 27-20 road win over the Chargers.

Pick Six

Here are this week’s top performers.

  1. Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs) – Threw five touchdown passes on a 35-for-50 night with 406 yards.
  2. Josh Allen (Bills) – Passed for 366 yards on a 21-for-38 afternoon with two TDs.
  3. Stefon Diggs (Bills) – Amassed 162 receiving yards on eight catches, including a TD.
  4. Rhamondre Stevenson (Patriots) – Averaged 5.0 yards-per-carry totaling 100 rushing yards with one score.
  5. Kirk Cousins (Vikings) – Tossed two touchdown passes and finished 25-for 37 for 294 yards.
  6. Tyreek Hill (Chiefs)- Caught 7-of-10 targets for 83 yards, including two dimes for scores from Mahomes.

NFL News & Notes

In their first possession of yesterday’s game, Jones led the Patriots offense on a 15-play, 83-yard scoring drive which took up 9 minutes, 39 seconds of clock — the longest touchdown drive to open a game in the Bill Belichick era.

The Chiefs improved to 6-4 and took over sole possession of first place in the AFC West with a 41-14 win over the Raiders.

The Cowboys took out their frustrations over last week’s loss to the Broncos by annihilating the Falcons 44-3.

After losing to the 29-19 to the Washington Football Team on the heels of a 36-27 loss to the Saints with a bye week sandwiched in between, the Buccaneers are in a bit of an unprecedented funk in the Tom Brady era.

The Bills scored 45 points yesterday while amassing nearly 500 total yards and are looking like a juggernaut.

The Cardinals were without QB1 Kyler Murray and No. 1 receiver DeAndre Hopkins and to no surprise, Arizona was pummeled by the Panthers.

Steelers running back Najee Harris was unaware that NFL games could end with a tie.

The 4-6 Eagles have won 4 of 6 on the road this season, are 0-4 at home, and amazingly, control their own playoff destiny.

From the Podium

  • “I think [Fields] will be excited to really attack it [after the bye week]. These past two games he kind of feels that ball rolling the right way like he’s got some momentum going. He feels that, so now he’s going to be super excited to get right back at it and get going. At the same point in time, we stressed to all these guys it’s a long year. Get right mentally, right? Get your bodies back physically and let’s see what happens with the second part of this year.” – Nagy
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