Bears Denied Again

Despite playing a generally awful game on offense for three quarters Sunday, the Bears felt as if they deserved to win and were robbed by an incorrect call on what appeared to be the game-tying touchdown pass with 1:27 to play.

With less than two minutes to go, QB Chad Hutchinson put up a pass in the right corner of the end zone in the direction of WR Bernard Berrian. The rookie caught the ball, got his feet tangled with Lions CB Andre Goodman and came down with the ball firmly in his grasp.

The official on top of the play called it incomplete -- without any explanation. However, replay official Bobby Skelton began the review process by contacting referee Terry McAulay. Replays appeared to confirm that Berrian caught the ball in bounds and that the play should have been a touchdown.

However, McAulay ruled that the original incomplete call would stand, offering this explanation: "As the receiver was going to the ground on his own, the ball moved when he hit the ground."

That explanation left the Bears dumbfounded. Berrian was sure he had a touchdown. "The thing I was thinking was if I had my feet in bounds, because I knew I caught the ball," Berrian said. "When I saw the replay, it took one look to see that I had my feet in, because I knew I caught it. I think they should have been able to see it with just one look."

Even the Detroit players were convinced the Bears would be given a touchdown once they viewed the play on the big screen in Ford Field. "I was shocked," said Lions K Jason Hanson. "I thought for sure they were going to call it a touchdown, but I'm not going to complain."

Neither did head coach Lovie Smith, who took a mature and reasoned approach even though his players and coaches were upset about the turn of events.

Despite the call going his way, coach Steve Mariucci contacted NFL director of officiating Mike Pereira for an explanation on why Berrian was not credited with a game-tying touchdown Sunday.

Mariucci obviously had no complaint with the call but said he contacted Pereira on Monday to get a clarification and a complete understanding of the officials' decision.

"A receiver's got to have two feet in AND maintain possession of the ball when he hits the ground," Mariucci said, referring to Pereira's explanation. "So, as you saw the replay, he appeared to have it. Andre (Goodman) had his hand on it, made contact, as well.

"But when he hit the ground, the ball appeared to move and be juggled upon contact with the ground. The official there called it incomplete and then evidently they didn't feel there was enough evidence on the replays to overturn that call."

Mariucci said Pereira also told him that if the play had been ruled a legal touchdown on the field, there probably wouldn't have been enough evidence to change it, either.

Mariucci was asked how he would feel if he saw the play from Bears coach Lovie Smith's point of view.

"I'm not Lovie Smith and I'm not on the other side," he said, laughing. "It's hypothetical. I don't know how he feels, maybe he's moving on to the Packers by now. I don't know.

"If I'm a Lions fan, I like the call. You take it when you get a call. That's how it goes."

The loss was the second of the year to the Lions and assures the Bears of a last-place finish in the NFC North. They go into their season finale against Green Bay having lost five of their last six games.


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