Situated at the Green Bay Packers' 33-yard line Monday night, the Chicago Bears were just outside of field goal range as the clock ticked down late in the fourth quarter. They needed at least 5 more yards to give kicker Robbie Gould a decent opportunity for a potential winning field goal.
Instead, quarterback Jay Cutler lofted a deep pass to receiver Earl Bennett down the right sideline. Packers safety Nick Collins swooped in for the interception, but officials whistled Packers rookie Morgan Burnett for pass interference. The call wiped out the turnover and instead placed the ball on the Packers' 9-yard line with 1:44 left. The Packers had only one timeout remaining, so in essence, the penalty meant ballgame.
It was one of a team-record 18 penalties for the Packers, but none was more damaging. Nevertheless, cornerback Charles Woodson lamented the call afterward, wondering how the NFL has gotten to the point where defenders can't have minimal contact with receivers.
"Somehow," Woodson said, "you've got to get away from letting quarterbacks throw the ball up for grabs when both players have engaged downfield and then you get the penalty and they get the ball at the -yard line. That needs to change. That's heartbreaking for a team to battle all game and then it's always the offensive guy that gets that call. That has to change."
Bennett and Burnett were certainly tangled up as the ball arrived, but as long as the passing game continues to fuel unprecedented interest in this game, I don't see that approach changing. It will be a decisive moment -- for the offense -- every time.