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Bears punt fake-out outfaked by penalty

Week 3: Packers at Bears

4th quarter | 1:09 remaining | video.

The Packers and Bears have played each other 183 times, dating back to 1921. Surely this series has seen it all.

No one saw that Bears returner Johnny Knox actually caught the punt rather than Devin Hester, who simulated a catch, faking out the entire Packers coverage team. While everyone was rubbing their eyes at what they couldn’t believe they didn’t see, referee Mike Carey was marching the play back on a holding call that also appeared to be a mystery.

This “phantom” call is not easy to see. In fact, the Fox graphic nearly obscured the hold entirely from the only angle that showed it. Clearly, though, Bears linebacker Corey Graham tangled with the Packers “gunner” Jarrett Bush. In the highlighted area of the picture, you can see Bush’s left shoulder is dipping downward as a result of contact from Graham.

Tough, but correct, call on such an otherwise beautifully executed play — one that we probably won’t see again for several years.

Fair-catch signal. I replayed the video and cannot see if Hester made a fair-catch signal. He apparently did not, because the play would  have been  dead as soon as Knox caught the ball. From Rule 10, Section 2, Article 3 of the NFL Rulebook:

(a) If a player of the receiving team makes a valid fair-catch signal, and the ball is not touched by a player of the kicking team, [and]…

(3) If the ball is caught or recovered by a teammate who did not make a valid fair-catch signal, the ball is dead immediately, but it is not a fair catch.

Photo credit: NFL/Fox Sports

A previous version of this post had the wrong player identified as the Packers gunner.

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Ben Austro
Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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One thought on “Bears punt fake-out outfaked by penalty

  1. That holding call was very ticky tack at best. If they call that they need to call a holding on every kick off or punt. The referees have been horrible all year. The Packers got away with the win but they also had a few calls bail them out also. The no-call on Woodson for tripping up Hester would of been a sure TD if Hester doesn’t get interfered with. Also Hester got flagged for hitting that guy in thhe face but if you watch the replay both players should of been flagged. Hoepefully the zebras start getting it right. I hope they didn’t decide to throw the flag so the Packers still covered the spread, which was 4 points!

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