The Chicago Bears got the wrong end of the whistle all night in Pittsburgh yet still found themselves in position to beat the Steelers and stay in the playoff hunt. Linebacker Cassius Marsh's sack of Ben Roethlisberger with 3:40 left to play would have given Justin Fields the ball back down 23-20 but the drive was allowed to continue after referee Tony Corrente flagged Marsh for taunting.
Everyone rightly hates the call because no one tunes into football to watch the officials, but the record should show that all of this could have been avoided if Marsh hadn't skipped away from his sideline and toward Pittsburgh's and barked in the general proximity of the oncoming punt team. A lot of people seem to think he didn't play any role in this nonsense when, in fact, he was the person who lit the fuse.
The NFL has put an emphasis on taunting and, stupid as it may be, players either adapt or fail to adapt and cost their teams important football games. No one likes this except the NFL, yet here we are and until these rules are relaxed this is how it's going to be.
Drama deepened, though, when replays showed that Corrente's flag came directly after he and Marsh had an on-field collision — one that looked an awful lot like it was initiated by the referee. In his postgame comments Marsh, looking like someone vying for the Iron Throne, agreed.
"On my way to the sideline, I got hip-checked by the ref. It's pretty clear," said Marsh. "If I was to do that to a ref or even touch a ref, we get kicked out of the game and possibly suspended and fined. I just think that that was incredibly inappropriate."
He's right about the fine if not the suspension. And it stinks for all non-Steelers parties this morning because even though the Bears made a furious comeback and there was an entertaining game-winning drive from Ben Roethlisberger, the events were hollow and unsatisfying because this is a very real thing to gripe about. There's something very human about not wanting some nonsense like this deciding a three-hour physical fight between two desperate teams.
Marsh and Corrente bear some responsibility for that yet ultimately it's the NFL that should be wearing the shame this morning for creating a system requiring such a call to be made. Who is this for? Who is such a system serving?