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Mistakes didn't deter the Bears against the Saints, until the NFL catch rule intervened

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The Bears responded quite well to adversity - much of it self-created - in New Orleans. But even they can't overcome a league's arbitrary catch rule.

Chicago Bears vs New Orleans Saints Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Normally, a comedy of errors and inconsistency would sink the Bears, no matter the circumstances. In New Orleans, from an inexplicable Kyle Fuller offside on a field goal attempt on the game's first possession, a missed early kick by Connor Barth, to the general non-threatening pop gun "run-run and pass on third and long" offense of Chicago, the Bears did absolutely everything to get in their own way.

Factor in injuries to Kyle Long, Cody Whitehair, and yes, Zach Miller, and by all proper logistics, the Bears should've been blown out by the Saints. Yet there they were, ball in Mitchell Trubisky's hand with 1:35 to go in the contest with a chance to tie anything but a cleanly played game at 20-20 in what ended up an eventual 20-12 loss. Trubisky of course, threw an interception to Defensive Rookie Of The Year candidate Marshon Lattimore to seal the game for New Orleans. The young quarterback explained himself in the post game on the game-ender.

“We had what we wanted. It was a good call. I missed a little bit. I’ve made that throw 100s of times," said Trubisky.

The 23-year-old should have no fear, though. A capricious and as usual, beyond confusing catch rule was one of the only reasons it came to him needing to rally. A rule and ruling that put the Bears behind the eight-ball when they shouldn't have been.

Earlier, with the Bears down 14-3 in the third quarter, Trubisky and the offense finally put together a needed offensive drive with rhythm. On a third and long play, instead of marveling at a perfect throw from Trubisky dropped into the bucket on a one-handed catch in the end zone by Miller to help the Bears rally, controversy ensued. Officials deemed it ... incomplete? What?

The reason? Miller had supposedly, at some point, lost control of the ball. You know the rest. In addition to a severe injury to Chicago's best pass target in Miller, who had surgery Monday morning to repair a torn artery, four points were taken off the board inexplicably through no fault of anyone but the men in stripes. Tremendous insult to injury on what at this rate, looks like a career-ending play. A true shame for what really should've counted as the best catch of Miller's career.

It's one thing when you have self-inflicted mistakes of your own. It's another when you have to fight against the grain of officiating.

When you examine the entirety of the play, Miller never lets the ball touch the ground. Even as he clutches his dislocated knee, he's still palming the ball in his other hand as he's grimacing in pain. The "Calvin Johnson Rule" where the former Lions wideout actually did technically let the ball touch the ground way back in 2010, as nonsensical as that ruling was too, this was not. Somewhere, Johnson and the Cowboys' Dez Bryant - who had a famous overturn on another similar play in Green Bay in the playoffs a few years ago - nodded their heads in solemn understanding.

Yet again on Sunday, the NFL illustrated it has no idea what a catch is and only does a disservice to a fan base simply tuning in to watch football decided by the players and only the players. A league continually getting in it's own way. If you take a deeper look, it's quite clear officials don't know what a catch is either outside of the book, because you couldn't get more of a vague explanation from head official Carl Cheffers.

"They are always close, but that process has been in place for some time now. So, this is what we ended up ruling," said Cheffers.

That sounds like a man without much conviction in his call. A man and his crew carrying out a rule they themselves don't understand. "That's how it is, so that's how we rule it." How convincing and elaborative, really.

No, the Bears didn't lose solely on said bogus overturn. They had plenty of opportunity to make up for it. An aggressive and incredible defense that forced two late turnovers allowed them that chance to even come through in the late fashion that they did. Blaming the officiating solely is a tale as old as time when it comes to scapegoating in sports, after all. Always without rhyme or reason.

But on this said occasion, much of the blame is more than apt. The complexion of the Bears' chances to come back against the Saints were shifted dramatically because the NFL doesn't know what a reception is and seemingly doesn't want anyone who follows football to know what one is. A point swing in any manner will never go unnoticed.

The Bears themselves were clearly perturbed by the ruling, as much as many of them swallowed their pride to not go into full rant mode.

Trubisky noted calmly as much, that the loss of Miller in such shocking fashion won't be forgotten.

"Zach means a lot to this team beyond the X's and O's and what he brings to the field but what he brings to us as a person," Trubisky said. "Specifically how much he has helped me grow in this process. You never want to see a teammate go down like that."

Ultimately, given that their now elite defense never relents, these Bears will likely be okay in the long run after a much-needed bye week comes and goes. However, a bad taste in their mouth from the bayou, will undoubtedly linger.

Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron, and contributor to the Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.