THE MORNING AFTER: Of Cassius and Justin

Bears Report

PITTSBURGH – They played their Halloween game eight days earlier, but this one would have been a little more fitting to have taken place on the holiday.

Frankly, it was weird, may a littles spooky, exciting, then a little disappointing. It had it all, but it still worked together to create a similar narrative: A Bears’ loss.

During the course of this game, there were two key players, each who’ve had different paths to this game, yet each who will be remembered in this 29-27 victory by the Steelers on Monday which sent Matt Nagy’s team to a fourth-straight loss.

Of course, Justin Fields dominated a number of the headlines even in a loss, and it was rightly deserved. He managed to top the best performance of his career with a better one in Pittsburgh. He shook off an early interception to throw for a career-high 291 yards

But it’s the final drive that was his true masterpiece, and very nearly was his first game-winning drive. He ran for 11 yards while passing for 64, with his last two passes giving Bears’ fans another reason to feel good about the future.

A 39-yard strike to Allen Robinson was followed by a precision strike to Darnell Mooney for the go-ahead touchdown. It could have been one a win, but the Bears will, again, have to settle with a glimpse of what the future could be.

“My mindset was just like, it’s time, we’re here. You can either be the guy who always gets put in that position and doesn’t show up, or you can be that guy who shows up in the big moments,” said Fields of the last drive. “That was my mindset, and I was just calm and just focused on showing up.”

He did, but what showed up again for the Bears on a drive that would eventually lead to their defeat was perhaps the greatest storyline of all: Penalties, and whether they were just or unjust.

That’s where Cassius Marsh comes in.

Aided by some great coverage, the linebacker that had just joined the Bears on November 3rd appeared to get a sack that was going to give the Bears the ball back down by just three points. But following his spinning kick celebration, Marsh glared towards the sideline, not really saying anything, then turned to run back.

Then as he went back to the sideline, before a flag was thrown, he bumps into referee Tony Corrente in contact that appeared to be initiated by the official. That’s when the flag came out, though Corrente told a pool reporter that it wasn’t the contact that drew the flag but his “gesture” towards the Steelers that brought it out.

Naturally, like many others, Marsh was quite unhappy.

“The one thing that I will say is on my way to the sideline I got hip-checked by the ref, and it’s pretty clear,” said Marsh. “If I were to do that to a ref or even touch a ref, we’d get kicked out of the game, possibly suspended and fined. So I just think that was incredibly inappropriate, and that’s all I’ll have to say about that.”

He wasn’t alone with a few calls on the night that went against the Bears, with 12 being called on the visitors with just five for the hosts, with those penalties costing the Bears 115 yards. In the second half, it cost them a touchdown, as a low block call on James Daniels – which looked in range to be legal – wiped out a Jimmy Graham touchdown.

Marsh’s infraction turned a stop into three points for the Steelers, with both calls costing the Bears necessary points.

“I don’t know about the two teams. I just look at what we have with 12 penalties. It’s too many,” said Nagy, who held back any frustration in his postgame news conference. “Because what it does is it just pushes you back or it gives them free yards. It’s a rhythm game, and you want to stay in rhythm. You want to stay away from penalties, and I feel like we need to be better there.”

In the end, correct or incorrect, they cost the Bears a chance to win on a bizarre night of football. It featured arguably the most promising prospect on the team along with a player hoping to keep his NFL career going stepping together into the spotlight at Heinz Field.

Oh, and on top of that, the angle of the TV broadcast fooled a number of fans on the last play thinking that Cairo Santos hit the crossbar with his 65-yard attempt. A “single doink” is what people described it as, bringing back painful memories of a kick many would assume forget in from January 2019.

Trick-or-treat, right?

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