Questionable penalties and missed calls highlighted the Chicago Bears' close loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers Monday night, with both players and fans calling out officials, but one call stood out from the rest.
One of the most-discussed calls of the game centered on a taunting penalty involving linebacker Cassius Marsh during the fourth quarter, but it wasn't just the call itself, it was what happened when the flag was thrown that has many talking.
Chicago appeared to get a stop on Pittsburgh's possession only to have Marsh — who spent training camp with the Steelers — get flagged for taunting after sacking Ben Roethlisberger on third down.
“I think it’s pretty clear to everybody who saw it that I wasn’t taunting,” Marsh said after the game. “It’s just sad to see stuff like that happen in a close game like that. Just rough.”
Marsh's celebration looked relatively innocuous, though the league has cracked down on any semblance of taunting this season.
“I saw the player, after he made a big play, run toward the bench area of the Pittsburgh Steelers and posture in such a way that I felt he was taunting them,” referee Tony Corrente said.
Marsh's teammates came to his defense, with linebacker Roquan Smith calling the penalty “BS.”
Marsh shrugged his shoulders.
"Whether I agree with the call or not, it cost us at a very crucial time," he said. "So I definitely feel a lot of remorse for costing our team a possible victory."
But it wasn’t just the flag that had Marsh frustrated.
“On my way to the sideline I got hip checked by the ref and it’s pretty clear,” he said. “If I were to do that to the ref, or even touch the ref, we’d get kicked out of the game and possibly suspended or fined. I just think that was incredibly inappropriate."
There could be consequences for the ref in question as the league evaluates officials' performances after every game. Penalties for a poor performance can range from being excluded from postseason officiating to firings in extreme cases.
But the taunting call was one of 12 penalties called on the Bears Monday night.
The penalties ran the gamut, from a pass-interference call that set up a Pittsburgh field goal to a questionable illegal block in the second quarter that negated a 1-yard touchdown pass from Fields to Jimmy Graham. The Steelers, by comparison, were flagged six times for 30 yards.
“With 12 penalties, that’s too many,” Coach Matt Nagy said. “What it does is it pushes you back or gives them free yards. You want to stay away from penalties and I think we need to be better there.”
In the end, the Steelers escaped with a 29-27 win.
After a bye week, the Bears will return to Soldier Field in Week 11 to take on the Baltimore Ravens.