Premature celebration won't happen againBRAD BIGGS email@example.com
Rest assured, Johnny Knox will make sure he's clearly in the end zone the next time he begins to celebrate a score.
The Bears' coaching staff has made that much clear to the rookie wide receiver-turned-kick returner sensation after his 102-yard runback to open the third quarter Sunday at Soldier Field became the second-longest kickoff return in franchise history.
Knox's touchdown broke a 21-21 tie and propelled the Bears to a strong second half as they buried the Detroit Lions 48-24. Replays made it difficult to determine if the ball crossed the plane of the goal line before he flipped it backward out of his right hand. An official was trailing Knox on the sideline by about 10 yards when he reached the end zone.
''They said touchdown, right?'' coach Lovie Smith said Monday. ''As far as I'm concerned, it's a touchdown.''
Smith seemed annoyed that the play would be brought up instead of focusing on his team's second-half surge to rise to 3-1 entering the bye week, thanks in large part to a dominant effort by special teams.
''Quit looking for something that's not there, all right,'' he said. ''It's a touchdown. We want our guys to cross the goal line whenever they get an opportunity to.''
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson did something similar last season at Dallas when he dropped the ball short of the goal line on what would've been a 61-yard touchdown pass. Because the play was blown dead before any Cowboys touched the ball, the Eagles were given possession of the ball at the 1-yard line, where they proceeded to score, saving Jackson further embarrassment.
When Knox let the ball go, it landed in the end zone, where it rested. The Lions didn't make a move for the ball, and it wasn't mentioned on the TV broadcast. Had the Lions challenged the play, it would've proved inconclusive.
What would've happened had the Lions challenged and there been clear evidence Knox fumbled the ball before scoring? Rules state that in a situation in which the other team doesn't gain possession, it belongs to the team that last possessed the ball where it was. In this instance, the Bears would've had the ball on the Lions' 1-yard line.
There's little chance you'll see this happen again, at least with Knox involved.