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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.