Packers notes: Replay challenge backfires on Bears

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PACKERS13 PACKERS  - Chicago Bears head coach John Fox argues a call during the 2nd quarter of the Green Bay Packers game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill. on Sunday, November 12, 2017.  Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

CHICAGO – On what had to be one of the biggest backfires any team has suffered in the NFL’s challenge era, Chicago Bears coach John Fox said he initially thought his team secured a touchdown.

Midway through the second quarter Sunday against Green Bay, Bears running back Benny Cunningham was wrongly ruled down at the Packers’ 2-yard line. Fox challenged that Cunningham did not step out of bounds, but actually scored a touchdown as he was extending the football toward the goal line.

Replay showed Cunningham never stepped out of bounds. It also showed Cunningham lose control of the football, and the ball hitting the pylon. Instead of first-and-goal from the 2-yard line, the play was ruled a touchback, and possession was given to the Packers.

At the time, the Packers led 10-3. They went on to win 23-16. Perhaps the difference on the scoreboard was Fox’s challenge backfiring.

“Every indication we had,” Fox said after the game, “was that he scored. And if anything, he would be at the 1-yard line or inside the 1-yard line. I think originally they spotted the ball at the 3-yard line. Then after replay and much time under the hood — in fact, one of the officials thought he heard that it was a touchdown, he had no idea they were ruling it a touchback during the deciphering.

“Obviously, that’s a play you would like to have back, but that’s not how this game works.”

Usually, a head coach has someone with access to a TV screen in the coaches’ box signal down to the field that a play should be challenged. Fox said the possibility of a touchback never was discussed, but he took responsible for the replay mistake.

“It’s all of us,” Fox said. “I’m not going to point fingers. It stops here. In hindsight, there are things we would do differently. That wasn’t part of what we thought would be the result.”

Ongoing issues: Facing the same goal posts where he booted a game-winning field goal in the Packers last trip to Soldier Field, Mason Crosby had a chance Sunday to seal another victory.

Instead, a 35-yard field goal with just more than one minute left further exposed what has been an ongoing problem with the Packers' field-goal battery.

Rookie punter Justin Vogel, serving as the Packers’ place-kick holder, bobbled Derek Hart’s snap and was unable to recover in time for Crosby to have a clean kick. Crosby’s boot never had a chance, sailing wide right.

“We obviously didn’t have a good operation,” Crosby said. “Bobbled the snap, and should probably call fire there. I don’t know if the ball ever really even got down all the way. So, unfortunate. We need to execute that so that we go up 10, and ballgame over.

“So disappointing to hit that, especially the day we had leading up to it.”

The Packers’ final field goal was their only miscue. Crosby was 3-for-4 on kicks, including a 50-yarder that gave the Packers a 16-6 lead early in the fourth quarter. He also made both extra points, though one clanged off the upright when his plant foot slipped on the wet field.

But Sunday was not the first time the Packers have missed a kick they should’ve made. Crosby is 11-for-14 on field goals, but each of his misses have come in the Packers’ past three games. He also has missed a pair of extra points.

Usually, the culprit is long snapping. The Packers are on their third long snapper this season. That’s never ideal, but even more difficult when working with a rookie holder.

Crosby said the operation from snap through hold and kick needs to be more consistent.

“We had some important kicks throughout the game,” Crosby said, “and that one – we needed that one. We’ve got to be able to just at least put it on me to knock it through. Their job is to snap, hold, protect — everything there. My job is to knock it through. If I attempt it, I should make it.

“But that one was pretty difficult.”

Hundley’s hamstring: The Packers will need to monitor Brett Hundley in practice this week after their starting quarterback injured his hamstring Sunday.

“It tightened up on him,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “He kept us going steady and never blinked, never told me to get out of anything or told me to stay away from this or stay away from that. He took a step today.”

Hundley did not specify when the hamstring problem arose but told reporters it affected him on a crucial scramble in the fourth quarter. Hundley picked up 17 yards on third and 2 near the midway point of the fourth on a drive that ended with a touchdown pass to wide receiver Davante Adams, giving the Packers a two-score lead.

“It just tightened up on me a little bit so I had to play around that,” Hundley said. “That’s the slowest I’ve ever ran in my life, so hopefully I don’t want to do that again.”

When asked if the injury would complicate his preparation for the Baltimore Ravens, Hundley told reporters he would be fine. “You figure it out and keep going,” he said.

Aside from Hundley’s injury, the Packers also lost their top two running backs. Starter Aaron Jones left the game in the first quarter with a knee injury and did not return. He was quickly ruled out after being carted to the locker room.

His replacement, Ty Montgomery, performed well before leaving the game in the second quarter after re-aggravating the broken ribs he suffered in the first meeting with the Bears in late September.

McCarthy did not have updates on either player during his postgame news conference.

Rookie cornerback Kevin King exited the game late in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury. King jogged off the field with his left arm hanging awkwardly but was in good spirits in the locker room. He was seen chatting with team doctor Patrick McKenzie before speaking with reporters.

“I’m all right,” King said.

King’s left shoulder has bothered him at times this season and during his college career at Washington.

College days: Without Jones and Montgomery, the Packers were forced to become more creative in their running attack. Part of that creativity involved using wide receiver Randall Cobb as a wildcat quarterback.

Cobb, of course, played a bit of quarterback during his freshman season at Kentucky before switching to receiver. He lined up in a shotgun formation several times Sunday and either carried the ball himself or ran the read option.

He finished with four carries for 8 yards.

“We had wrinkles,” McCarthy said. “It’s no different than what we do each and every week. You have different things you want to make the defense play the game schematically, for the second time against them in a division game. All those things factor into that. I think (defensive coordinator) Vic Fangio does an outstanding job. You can’t just line up the same things all day against them.”

Delayed reaction: If it weren’t for quarterback Hundley’s 42-yard completion to receiver Adams just before the 2-minute warning, the Bears might have had pretty good field position when they got the ball back.

It was third and 5 at the Packers 40 with 2:12 to go and the Packers holding onto a 23-16 lead.

But before the Packers could run their play, they were hit with a delay of game penalty. It was inexcusable given they had a timeout left, but neither Hundley nor McCarthy reacted quickly enough.

According to center Corey Linsley, the Bears lined up in a front the Packers hadn’t seen against their formation and it caused confusion.

“I made the call and then Brett came up to me and tuned the call and then he was kind of like, ‘All right, all right, you’re right,’” LInsley said. “We tried to get going and that’s what happened. It was a tough look.”

After the delay, the Packers took a timeout. Hundley made the botched sequence go away with the completion to Adams.

Hundley also made a bad mistake at the end of the first quarter when he wasted a timeout trying to get the Bears to jump offsides. The Packers had enough time on the play clock to let the game clock wind down, so if the Bears didn’t jump, the Packers could have just let the game clock expire and then punt when the second quarter started.

“Bad communication on my part,” McCarthy said. “That’s obviously not what we want to do. That’s my fault. I didn’t make it clear what we were trying to get done there.”

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