On a night when sneezing too loudly might’ve been enough to push an official to throw a flag, the Cassius Marsh penalty (and the ridiculousness that came after with Tony Corrente’s whack explanation) is likely the one that will stick in the craw of most Bears fans.
And I get it.
But I can’t till get over Bears right guard James Daniels getting dinged for a penalty that wiped out a Justin Fields to Jimmy Graham touchdown. It was that kind of night:
NFL officials are always awful. But sometimes it’s just really obvious that they’re cheating. Trailing 14-3 in the 3rd, Bears score a TD to get inside the 7-point spread. The ref calls a penalty that not only didn’t happen, but would have been LEGAL if it had. #BearsNation #NFL pic.twitter.com/rPSzNihpGg
— Matt Stevens (@MattStevens1957) November 9, 2021
To summarize the video above: Daniels was called for an illegal low block penalty. The spirit of the call is to penalize linemen who block defenders below the knees when they go outside of the tackle boxes. Not only did Daniels miss the defender entirely, he wasn’t even outside the tackle box when doing so. For as sloppy as the Bears were throughout last night, the officiating was at the level to match it. And that penalty takes the cake in terms of being bad and poorly timed from a Bears perspective. That’s a potential four-point swing in a game ultimately decided by two points.
In isolation, one missed call isn’t going to be the end of the world. But when it is part of a mountain of rough calls that went against the Bears, it’s enough to make you want to claw your eyes out. There was a questionable Mario Edwards Jr. roughing the passer call. A miss on one that was a late hit on Justin Fields, one that Ben Roethlisberger seemed to get earlier from the same crew. There was a DPI call against Jaylon Johnson in which he and Steelers widow Diontae Johnson were equally going at it with hand fighting. A different miss on another possible roughing call on a hit to Fields also stuck with me. But none were like a call that directly took points off the board.
The only thing more bothersome than the penalty was Matt Nagy’s postgame reaction:
Matt Nagy on the Jimmy Graham touchdown negated by a penalty on James Daniels: "No comment. … I don't have a comment on that play."
— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) November 9, 2021
On the one hand, the Bears head coach saved himself a few thousand dollars worth of fines and a letter from league offices. And let’s be honest, no one likes giving their money away. But on the other hand, that moment was one that would’ve made for a perfect time to let ‘er rip.
Shred the officials for a poorly called game. Highlight the disparity of penalties in that contest. It’s not like you’d be making up numbers. Go to bat for your quarterback, who had a touchdown taken away from him. Back up your veteran tight end, who pushed off retirement to return (only to see a waning number of snaps this season). Ultimately, this was a moment in which Nagy could’ve stood up behind a mic, taken one for the team, eaten a fine, and earned some points from his players (not to mention fans).
Heck, Zach LaVine once offered to pay Jim Boylen’s fine after the then-Bulls coach was ejected for arguing with his then-Clippers counterpart Doc Rivers. You don’t think these Bears would’ve passed around the collection plate for their coach? Could you imagine the outpouring of meatball support had he come out and blasted officials in a way that would’ve resembled the likes of Jim Mora Sr. or Mike Ditka? There was potential for a timeless moment and an opportunity to rally the troops. Instead, a “no comment” makes this feel like a fleeting moment that could’ve been something more.