Sunday, September 25, 2011
Bears' rope-a-dope goes for naught*
By Kevin Seifert
CHICAGO -- Technically, it will go down as a 35-yard punt, followed by a nine-yard return and backed up by a 10-yard penalty.
But it will go down in history, said Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, as "the most incredible play I've ever seen." Packers receiver Greg Jennings, who like Rodgers is typically understated when it comes to superlatives, added: "I've been watching the NFL for a long time. That was the best play I've ever seen. Hands down. Best play I've ever seen."
Even as they stood in the winning locker room Sunday afternoon, Packers players were stunned and admittedly awed by the play the Chicago Bears conceived and nearly pulled off at the end of a 27-17 victory. You've probably seen it by now, but in essence the Bears bamboozled the Packers on the kind of trick play you rarely see at the NFL level. (Video of the play from NFL.com here.)
To recap, with context gleaned from postgame interviews:
With 1 minute, nine seconds remaining in the game, the Packers called for Tim Masthay to punt toward the left sideline on a fourth-down play at the Bears' 46-yard line. According to receiver/returner Johnny Knox, the Bears "knew he was going to kick it that way because their scheme and what hash they were on."
As a result, Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub called for a return the team had practiced but obviously not run in a game. Knox, lined up as a "jammer" against Packers "gunner" Jarrett Bush, turned and sprinted down the left sideline at the snap. At the same time, Packers punt returner Devin Hester sprinted toward the right sideline, along with eight Bears blockers.
And so did the entire Packers cover team, even though they knew the call was for a punt in the opposite direction.
"We all went with Hester," Bush said. "You have to kind of respect it because Hester is the dynamic returner that he is. Everybody went that way. I knew the ball was supposed to go a different way. But I couldn't find it."
As Hester called for a mock fair catch on the right sideline, Knox fielded the punt on the other side and began sprinting upfield. *Update: Upon a second look at the replay, there is no evidence Hester called for a fair catch. The only player that saw it happen was Masthay, and the one blocker the Bears kept with Knox -- Winston Venable -- shielded Knox down the sideline for the most unique touchdown play I've ever seen. Rarely, if ever, will you see 10 NFL players get fooled the way the Packers were in this case.
The score would have closed the deficit to 27-24, putting the Bears in position for an onside kick and a possible possession to tie or win the game. But officials called Bears special teams ace Corey Graham for holding on the right sideline, nullifying the score.
"I actually told some of their players, 'That was a nice play you guys came up with,'" Bush said. "We didn't even expect that at all. Unfortunately, Corey Graham got the holding call. That's that. It was a long play. It happened."
What's next? The fumblerooski?