According to a November 14 report by NFL insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero, the league has acknowledged that the officiating crew led by referee Tony Corrente made several glaring mistakes that when added up, could have made a difference in the outcome of the game. The Steelers won, 29-27, but not without a great deal of controversy — which was warranted, as it turns out.
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NFL Fines Bears LB Publicly, Privately Acknowledges Multiple Critical Errors
The most controversial call of the night was the taunting penalty called against Bears linebacker Cassius Marsh. The league fined Marsh $5,972 for unsportsmanlike conduct (he plans to appeal), but per Pelissero and Rapoport, that call — which came on a 3rd down in the fourth quarter after Marsh sacked Ben Roethlisberger — wasn’t even one of the most costly for the Bears.
“Privately, members of the NFL’s officiating department who reviewed the game acknowledged that referee Tony Corrente and his crew erred on at least three separate critical calls and non-calls that went against Chicago in that 29-27 loss — including a low block penalty on the Bears that nullified a Justin Fields touchdown pass, sources familiar with the league’s thinking said,” Pelissero and Rapoport wrote on November 14.
Pelissero and Rapoport also found that officials in the Week 9 MNF game also “Missed multiple penalties by the Steelers, including a late hit on (Bears rookie quarterback Justin) Fields that would’ve given the Bears first-and-goal on the same third-quarter drive and offsides by multiple Steelers on Cairo Santos’ 65-yard field goal attempt that fell short as time expired.”
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A Closer Look at Missed Calls vs Bears on MNF
The three “critical” calls the league admitted its officiating crew botched all appeared obvious at the time — fans and analysts alike called them each out on Twitter. The most egregiously bad one — a low block penalty called on Chicago o-lineman James Daniels in the third quarter, negated a 1-yard touchdown pass from Fields to tight end Jimmy Graham.
Considering Daniels whiffed on his block and wasn’t out of position, the referees made an error that appeared obvious to nearly everyone watching:
The second major mistake the NFL admitted to was a roughing the passer penalty on Fields that wasn’t called. After the game, Fields revealed he had asked officials about a hit he took courtesy of Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith, who hit him from behind long after he released the ball. Considering Bears defensive lineman Mario Edwards was penalized for hitting Roethlisberger late, Fields felt the game wasn’t being called fairly.
“I said, ‘Big Ben just got that call, so I don’t know why you can’t give me that call.’ I just needed him to call it both ways. That’s what I told him. That’s the only conversation we had,” Fields said after the game about his conversation with the ref.
Here’s a look at the play he’s talking about:
Multiple Steelers players also were lined up in the neutral zone when Bears kicker Cairo Santos’ attempted a game-winning 65-yard field goal, which was the third potentially game-changing call the league admitted it got wrong:
Instead of taking a 4-5 mark into their bye and pulling within a half-game of the No. 7 seed in the NFC, the Bears fell to 3-6. While it’s nice the NFL admitted its errors, that acknowledgment doesn’t do the team much good at the end of the day.