CHICAGO – There was no hesitation from Bears center Sam Mustipher. He saw a Packers defender jump offsides, so he snapped the ball.
“He came across the football, I thought it was a free play,” Mustipher said after a 24-14 Packers win at Soldier Field. “I snapped the football, that’s why Justin threw it up.”
The Bears were up by seven points late in the first quarter and looking to add to their lead Sunday. The Bears had caught the Packers offsides and assumed they had a free play. If something bad happened, the penalty would negate the play and they’d take five yards and do it all over again.
So quarterback Justin Fields stepped out of the pocket and heaved a deep ball in the vicinity of receiver Allen Robinson. Unfortunately, Robinson had pulled up short – this was all unscripted, remember – and that left an easy interception for Packers safety Darnell Savage.
There was one problem for the Bears. The refs never threw a penalty flag.
“I was confused why there weren’t any flags on the ground,” Fields said. “I don’t know if the refs just missed that or he didn’t jump offsides or what.”
The play didn’t cost the Bears the game, but it was a major missed opportunity. It came on a third-and-7 at the Green Bay 47-yard line. If the refs threw the flag, it would’ve been third-and-2 as a worst-case scenario. The Bears still could’ve kept the drive alive and maybe taken a two-possession lead.
Instead, Green Bay took the interception and drove 80 yards the other direction for a touchdown. They scored a field goal on their next possession, too, to take a 10-7 lead.
“You know who’s over there at quarterback and you understand, as an offense, that when you get on the field, you’ve got to put points on the board,” Mustipher said. “So that’s an understanding going into every game as an offense. When we get on the field, it’s our job to put points on the scoreboard.”
Bears coach Matt Nagy, a former quarterback himself, said it’s not easy to see if a flag goes flying on a play like that.
“When that happened, and maybe even if he thought it was a little bit gray, just put even a little more on [the pass], then it’s thrown deeper,” Nagy said. “That’s hard. In those moments right there, it’s so gray and it’s not easy.”
Fields finished the game 16-for-27 passing for 174 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran for 43 yards on six carries. The offense struggled for much of the game, but played well on two possessions – an 80-yard touchdown drive to start the game and an 80-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.