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In the process, Bears get a gift
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 9/12/2010 8:53 PM

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Only in the world of cryptic NFL rules is a catch not a catch, a touchdown not a touchdown, and a loss not a loss.

And only in the world of Loviespeak, is what you saw Sunday at Soldier Field a brilliant start to a Super Bowl season in Chicago.

Yes, Bears head coach Lovie Smith could barely contain himself after the Bears beat Detroit by a whopping 5 points, 19-14, and could hardly refrain from his first, "I told you so."

But don't fret. Surely that's coming soon to a news conference near you.

"It's been a long time since we've been at the top of our division," Smith said after Sunday's big win. "We are 1-0 right now going into Dallas."

Sure, the Monsters of the Midway are definitely back, having thoroughly pounded the hapless Lions, unless you count the part where they should have lost if not for a superfluous rule that snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

This is the NFL, where what you clearly see is obviously not what you get.

What 62,080 in the stadium saw was Calvin Johnson catch a 25-yard touchdown pass from Lions backup QB Shaun Hill with 24 seconds left in the game.

But after the nearest official called it a touchdown, he was overruled because Johnson put the ball down on the grass as he was getting up to celebrate.

The play was over, but by some obscure NFL standard, having two hands on the ball and two feet on the ground - followed by a butt cheek, a knee and a hand - is not a catch.

"I thought it was a touchdown," said Bears corner Zack Bowman, who got beat on the play. "It's a new rule I guess. I didn't know the rule. I don't think any of us did."

Bowman will probably get a lesson from the Bears today on how to deceive the media and trick the fans, because that sort of honesty has no place in Lake Forest.

"I saw it exactly the way (the ref) did," Smith said. "Didn't really think they needed a replay."

Of course not, but Bowman was hardly alone in thinking the Bears had lost the game.

Johnson was halfway across the field jumping around with his teammates when another on-field official changed the call.

"The ruling is that in order for the catch to be completed he has got to maintain possession of the ball throughout the entire process of the catch," said referee Gene Steratore. "We're talking now about the process of the catch."

Got it. The process of the catch.

Wait, what?

"He must maintain possession of the ball," Steratore said, "throughout the entire process."

Yes, the process. Good. By process of elimination, you determined all those hands and feet and cheeks meant he scored a touchdown, right?

"The process was not finished until he finished that roll," Steratore said, "and the entire process of that catch."

I feel like there's a process here I don't quite understand, but it's confusing enough that I'm using this logic next time I'm in trouble for getting home smelling like a wet golf glove and cheap cigars.

"We had enough chances to win," said Lions coach Jim Schwartz. "We don't make excuses around here."

In the process of the Lions having a game stolen from them, we are reminded that they never should have been in the game during the final seconds anyway, not with the Bears rolling up 463 yards to the Lions' 168.

So while the erstwhile TD will be a topic of discussion for months on end, and maybe even necessitate another rule change or addendum, the Bears will have to process all that went wrong Sunday.

The list of positives starts with Brian Urlacher looking young for a day, and the Mike Martz offense that allowed Jay Cutler to move the ball at will.

There also was one great play each by Matt Forte and Lance Briggs, and one from the very expensive Julius Peppers, who was invisible except for a sack of Lions QB Matthew Stafford at the end of the first half that knocked Stafford from the game with a shoulder injury, caused a fumble and netted the Bears 3 points.

There was much to be disturbed about, from the mix-ups on offense, 4 fumbles and an interception, and the fact that the Bears didn't win the second half by 28 after removing Stafford from the game.

There was the inability to pound the ball in from the 1-yard line given four chances, Smith's typically strange decision-making, and 9 penalties for 100 yards.

There was Cutler getting hit hard all day and limping away once after having his knee twisted by Kyle Vanden Bosch, who got to know the Bears QB intimately.

There were a few dropped passes, one by Devin Aromashodu that should have been 6 points, several overthrown, and at least three when a receiver ran the wrong route.

But there was nothing worse than having a wretched Detroit offense with a high school QB walking down the field 83 yards in 5 plays and 63 seconds for what appeared to be the game-winning score against the bend-and-break defense.

So, sure, the numbers say the Bears had a good day and the standings say they're 1-0.

Smith will remind you of that all week.

But every single question the Bears had coming into Game 1 remains unanswered, and there are a few new ones tossed into the mix despite Sunday's gift from the officials.

"We're gonna have to play better football," said center Olin Kreutz. "I think we know that."

So, yeah, to some it looked like a loss, smelled like a loss and felt like a loss.

"But all we wanted was a 'W' here today," Peppers said. "That's all we wanted from this game."

That's all they got.