At least two replay angles show that Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy should have challenged a second quarter play in which Andrew Quarless was deemed to have juggled a sideline catch from backup quarterback Seneca Wallace.
On the play in question, Wallace eluded pressure on 3rd-and-11 and connected with Quarless along the Bears' sidelines, roughly around the Chicago 25-yard line. After originally ruling a catch, the nearest official waved off the reception because Quarless momentarily juggled the pass before falling out of bounds.
Replay clearly shows that Quarless did bobble the reception attempt. But replay is just as clear that the Packers tight end regained possession of the football with two feet clearly in bounds and his knee still off the ground.
Here are two screenshots that appear to conclusively show Quarless made the catch. Both come after the original bobble:
On the television broadcast, McCarthy can be seen looking up at a replay of the sequence. Mike Tirico, ESPN's play-by-play announcer, makes it clear that the replay shown at Lambeau Field was the identical angle as the first screen shot provided above.
Instead of throwing his red challenge flag, McCarthy sent out the punting team on fourth down. This was the wrong decision.
There were just four minutes and 25 seconds left in the first half, and Green Bay still possessed all three of its timeouts. An overturn of the incomplete call would have provided the Packers with 1st-and-10 at the Chicago 25-yard line, giving Wallace three more downs to work with and putting Green Bay well within Mason Crosby's field goal range.
Of course, McCarthy received just one look at the play in real-time. We are given the opportunity to look at several angles over many replays and make a decision. Still, there was more to gain from a challenge than lose, and McCarthy is paid big money to be right on these kind of calls.
Tim Masthay's ensuing punt pinned Chicago at the 1-yard line, but the Bears drove 93 yards over 12 plays and 4:16 to set up Robbie Gould's 24-yard field goal as the first half clock expired. The Packers trailed at the half, 17-10.
There's no guarantee that the Packers would have drove the remaining 25 yards and scored a touchdown, or that Crosby would have made a kick given the chance. But McCarthy's decision to not challenge a very questionable ruling cost his team an opportunity to score points on a night in which his backup quarterback was struggling.
Zach Kruse is a 25-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covered prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at email@example.com.
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