By Jay Cohen
AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO — Bears coach John Fox thought it was a touchdown. At worst, it was going to be first-and-goal.
Not so much. Fox won his challenge all right, and lost the ball.
A strange replay reversal cost Chicago a potential scoring opportunity, and the Bears were unable to stop Green Bay’s rushing attack in the second half of a 23-16 loss to Brett Hundley and the Packers on Sunday.
Mitchell Trubisky threw for a career-high 297 yards in his fifth NFL start, including a gorgeous 46-yard touchdown pass to Josh Bellamy in the fourth quarter. It was an encouraging performance by the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, but one that likely will be remembered for the one that got away from the rookie and the Bears.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) November 12, 2017
Chicago was down 10-3 when it drove to the Green Bay 22 midway through the second quarter. On third-and-13 from the 25, Trubisky passed to Bennie Cunningham on a screen play, and the fifth-year running back cut outside before making a lunging try for the end zone on a cold, rainy day at Soldier Field.
Cunningham was ruled out at the 2 and the Bears challenged the call.
“Every indication that we had was that he scored and if anything he would be at the 1 or inside the 1 instead of I think they spotted the ball originally at the 3,” Fox said.
Instead, the replay showed the ball coming out of Cunningham’s hands before it hit the pylon, and the fumble into the end zone resulted in a touchback for Green Bay. Fox screamed at line judge Bart Longson after the ruling, and the crowd booed through the ensuing offensive series for the Packers.
“As he was lunging toward the goal line, he lost the ball in his right hand first, probably, I’m going to guess, 2 feet maybe short of the pylon,” referee Tony Corrente told a pool reporter. “As he got even closer, the left hand came off. We had to put together two different angles in order to see both hands losing the football. After he lost it the second time, it went right into the pylon.”
Cunningham said he thought it was a TD at first, but he agreed with the call after watching the replay.
“Coaches go over it every week. Unless it’s fourth down, you don’t reach the ball out at the goal line, in the red zone,” he said. “They talk about it. I go down at the 1, next play it’s first-and-goal and we hand the ball to Jordan (Howard). It’s a touchdown. So it was a bad decision.”
Chicago (3-6) also was hurt by a video review in its previous game, losing a potential touchdown reception by Zach Miller during a 20-12 loss at New Orleans on Oct. 29. Miller also seriously injured his left leg on the play, ending his season.
The Bears were off last weekend and the Packers (5-4) had dropped three in a row since star quarterback Aaron Rodgers got hurt against Minnesota. But Hundley directed Green Bay to its eighth win in its last nine games against Chicago, passing for 212 yards and a touchdown. The Packers also rushed for 160 yards despite losing their top two running backs to injuries.
“A lot of the stuff was self-inflicted on ourselves,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “That’s been the theme this year. When we’ve had enough, it’ll stop. But we have to make a decision.”
The 62-year-old Fox dropped to 12-29 in his three seasons with Chicago. He is 1-5 against Green Bay since taking over the Bears, but he said he isn’t worried about his job status.
“I’ve been doing this too long,” he said. “I’ve never worried about my job security, and I won’t start any minute going forward.”