DENVER — You think the Denver Broncos have it bad? Here's how low things have gotten for their former head coach in Chicago: even when John Fox wins, he loses.
Fox fell to 12-29 in Chicago with a 23-16 loss to the Packers on Sunday that will best be remembered for his successful challenge that cost the Bears dearly.
Bennie Cunningham caught Mitchell Trubisky's screen pass and cut outside before lunging for the right pylon in the second quarter. Cunningham was ruled out of bounds at the 2 and the Bears challenged the call, sure it would be ruled a touchdown on review.
"Every indication that we had was that he scored, and if anything he would be at the 1 or inside the 1 instead of I think they spotted the ball originally at the 3," Fox said.
Instead, the replay showed the ball coming out of Cunningham's hands before it hit the pylon and while he was still in bounds, and the fumble into the end zone resulted in a touchback for Green Bay.
"Obviously, that's a play you'd like to have back," Fox said. "But that's now how this game works."
Here's how replay reviews do work: throw the flag and everything is fair game.
The NFL's rulebook states: "All reviewable aspects of the play may be examined and are subject to reversal, even if not identified in a coach's challenge or if not the specific reason for a Replay Official's request for review."
Cunningham agreed with the call after watching the replay.
"Coaches go over it every week. Unless it's fourth down, you don't reach the ball out at the goal line, in the red zone," Cunningham said. "They talk about it. I go down at the 1, next play it's first-and-goal and we hand the ball to Jordan (Howard). It's a touchdown. So it was a bad decision."
But the right call.
Week 10 was filled with notable calls, and one of the biggest was Bill Belichick reaching out for Martellus Bennettafter the Packers jettisoned the tight end who had opted for surgery on his injured shoulder.
COME BACK: Belichick offered to bring Bennett back to New England, where he won a Super Bowl ring last year. Bennett said he told Belichick he needed to think about it "because I don't even know if I went through the seven stages of grief yet."
Bennett called back a few minutes later to accept Belichick's offer and was active for New England's 41-16 shellacking of the Broncos on Sunday night, contributing three catches for 38 yards.
"It's good to have him back and good to have him contribute," Belichick said.
"He did a great job coming in on a Friday," Tom Brady said. "I love having Martellus on our team. He adds a lot and he is a great player. He was for us last year, and hopefully we keep building on it. "
BRONCOS BOMB: Before the Patriots handed the Broncos their fifth consecutive double-digit loss , Mike Tirico sat down with Denver general manager John Elway, who told him, "I still have dreams of playing, believe it or not, after 19 years. It's much tougher sitting up in the box watching it than it is down there playing."
Back in the studio, NBC analyst Tony Dungy had the line of the day when he cracked, "You know why he wants to play? He's got a Super Bowl-caliber team and he's the best quarterback in the building."
Maybe so, but for now Brock Osweiler will remain the starter after falling to 0-2 in place of Trevor Siemian, but if this slide continues, Paxton Lynch might finally get the chance to show if he's a late bloomer or a bust.
For now it looks like Elway will go into his third consecutive offseason not knowing who his QB is.
REPUTATION FLAGS: Bengals oft-penalized linebacker Vontaze Burfict will suit up in Denver next weekend after the NFL said he won't be suspended for contact with an official that got him ejected from Cincinnati's 24-20 loss at Tennessee.
After Marcus Mariota was knocked out of bounds just shy of the goal line, Tennessee tackle Jack Conklin pushed Burfict and down judge Jeff Bergman put his left arm across Burfict's midsection to keep the players apart. As he returned to the field, Burfict lightly moved Bergman's arm away as though it were a subway turnstile.
Two plays earlier, Burfict drew an unnecessary roughness penalty for hitting — actually, grazing — DeMarco Murray out of bounds.
Burfict's former teammate, nose tackle Domata Peko, who's now in Denver, said neither flag should have been thrown on his old buddy, but noted "he's under the microscope because of his history of all these penalties."
"But I love Burf. I love how he plays. He plays hard. He plays with a lot of emotion," Peko said. "I saw that, he barely touched the ref. He just moved his arm. He could have chopped his arm down. He could have done something worse. But being under the microscope, you can't be doing that stuff."
With contributions from AP Pro Football Writer Teresa M. Walker and AP Sports Writer Jay Cohen.
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