Imagine yourself in Zack Bowman's cleats at the end of Sunday's game.
You know the Lions want to get the ball to 6-foot-5 receiver Calvin Johnson, who runs a 4.35-second 40-yard dash and once wowed scouts with a 43-inch vertical jump. Then the ball is in the air, just like you knew it would be, and you're in perfect position.
But it doesn't matter. Johnson catches the ball anyway. The Bears lose, or at least that's how it appears before the official rules no catch, preserving a 19-14 victory at Soldier Field.
"It was a tough play, a real tough play," Bowman said. "I knew it was going to be a jump ball. I was just trying to get in position to catch it or knock the ball out. It was a tough call. Hey, it went our way. I'm not complaining."
The Bears aren't complaining, all right, not after officials ruled Johnson's apparent 25-yard touchdown catch with 31 seconds left was incomplete and not the game-winning touchdown. Although Johnson got both feet down with the ball secured, and even though he maintained control while landing on his backside, officials ruled that he did not maintain possession for the entire "process of the catch," according to referee Gene Steratore.
"It's a helpless feeling," Bowman said. "I was in position. It wasn't like I was beat. I was over the top of him. It was a jump ball. I jumped. He just jumped higher than I did. After that call, obviously, it was like we can't do that again. The next two calls we had help over the top on him."
The Bears were in a cover-three defense on the play, which meant Bowman was by himself with no safety help. He said he got pushed in the back during the play and thought he might even draw an offensive pass interference play on Johnson.
"He's a big-time receiver," Bowman said. "They're not going to give me that call. It is what it is."
Bowman said it wasn't tough waiting to see if replay officials would overturn the call because coach Lovie Smith told them right away that Johnson's catch was no good and to start focusing on stopping the Lions on the next two plays, which the Bowman and the Bears did..
"We had help over the top on both sides," Bowman said of the last two passes, which were also intended for Johnson. "We knew they were going to try to get him the ball in a jump-ball situation again. We all had to just go up and get it."