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Sunday, December 29, 2013
One play didn't lose game, but it hurt

By Michael C. Wright
ESPN.com

CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman struggled to explain Sunday how Green Bay's  Jarrett Boykin scooped up a loose ball and scored while everybody else on the field stood and watched.

The play was perhaps the most unusual turn of events in a 33-28 Packers victory at Soldier Field which end the Bears' season.

"We didn't pick it up and scoop and score with it. For me to try to explain why that happened, I really can't at this time because we've never allowed the ball to sit on the ground like that at any time in practice," Bears coach Marc Trestman said.

Green Bay took a 10-7 lead basically as the result of failure by the home team to play heads-up football.

Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers looks for confirmation of Jarrett Boykin's touchdown against the Bears.
With 3:28 left in the opening half, Julius Peppers sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers from behind as Rodgers attempted to throw the ball. The ball came loose and hit the cold, damp turf at Soldier Field. Players from both teams froze, and officials never blew the play dead.

As players from both teams watched, Boykin alertly picked up the ball and romped 15 yards for a touchdown.

"[The whistle] didn't blow, that's why they allowed it to be a touchdown. Twenty-two players basically stopped," Trestman said. "[No.] 11 probably got the word from the sideline to pick the ball up because it was over on their side. But I thought both teams stopped. So that's why it's such an unusual situation. Nobody got on the football."

Officials immediately reviewed the play and determined Rodgers fumbled as opposed to throwing incomplete, and confirmed the original call of a Boykin touchdown.

"We all thought it was a dead ball," said linebacker James Anderson, who watched the ball roll right past him. "That's why everyone kind of stopped. It was a big play. We need to make sure that we hear the whistle. I thought I did [hear a whistle], but I don't even know initially if anyone else knew what it was a live ball."

Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will take some heat for the club's defense not being more alert and not following the tenet of playing until the whistle is blown, something taught to players at every level. Surely, some will question whether or not a defense coached by Lovie Smith would have let such a play occur.

Given what was on the line -- the NFC North title and a berth in the playoffs -- all those criticisms would be legitimate, but it appeared the players should shoulder the blame in this instance.

At Bears' practices, every time the ball hits the ground -- even on an incomplete pass -- typically a defender scoops it up and starts running the other way.

"I guess the one time that you don't, it hurts you," Anderson said. "That's neither here nor there. That was one play in the game, and we still had an opportunity to win."

Trestman echoed those sentiments, but expressed disappointment in the fact the play resulted in points for the Packers. Take away Boykins' score, and the Bears win the game.

"I didn't hear a whistle. So I was just as curious as everybody else why nobody was moving towards the ball; nobody," Trestman said. "Certainly, completely disappointed. As I told our players, no one play is going to make a difference in the game. That was a highly unusual play, no doubt about it."