The way Benny Cunningham sees it, he shouldn’t have ever put his coach in a position to have a challenge so massively backfire. 

Cunningham appreciated that John Fox “had my back” in throwing a challenge flag after he dove for the pylon in the second quarter, and thought the officiating crew made the correct call in ruling he actually fumbled the ball out of the end zone for a touchback. Where Cunningham found fault was in his own decision to dive for the pylon in the first place. 

“Coaches go over it every week, unless it’s fourth down, you don’t push the ball out on the goal line in the red zone,” Cunningham said. “They talk about it. I go down at the time, next play, first and goal, we had the ball to Jordan (Howard), it’s a touchdown. So, bad decision.”

The 27-year-old Cunningham is one of the most respected figures in the Bears’ locker room, and it’s not surprising he fell on the sword after the game: He felt he made a mistake, so he owned it. 

“He took responsibility because he’s a man and he has pride, and he knows that he wanted to do his best for the team,” defensive end Akiem Hicks said. 

But while Cunningham may be right about Howard being able to easily punch in a touchdown had he just got out of bounds, this is a Bears’ offense that hasn’t made many plays this year. Cunningham didn’t shy away from an opportunity to make a play after catching a pass and scything 23 yards with the Bears down, 10-3, at the time. His teammates appreciated that effort, even if Cunningham himself felt it was misguided. 

 

“Benny’s trying to make a play,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “He’s probably one of the most passionate dudes on our team. Just trying to make a play and just trying to finish.”

As for Fox, he said he there wasn’t a thought of Cunningham having fumbled for a touchback on the view the team had. 

“Every indication we had was that he scored, and if anything, he would be at the one-yard line or inside the one-yard line,” Fox said. “I think originally they spotted the ball at the three-yard line. Then after replay and much time under the hood — in fact, one of the officials thought he heard that it was a touchdown, he had no idea they were ruling it a touchback during the deciphering. Obviously that’s a play you would like to have back. But that not how this game works. 

“It’s all of us — I’m not going to point fingers. It stops here. In hindsight, there are things we would do differently. That wasn’t part of what we thought would be the result.”

Former NFL vice president of officiating and current FOX analyst Dean Blandino didn’t think there was enough evidence for the call on the field — that Cunningham was out at the two-yard line — to be overturned, for what it’s worth:

Referee Tony Corrente offered this explanation, via a pool reporter:

"Looking at the review, he did not step out of bounds and started lunging toward the goal line (with both hands on the ball)," Corrente said. "As he was lunging toward the goal line, he lost the ball in his right hand first, probably, I'm going to guess, 2 feet maybe short of the pylon. As he got even closer, the left hand came off. We had to put together two different angles in order to see both hands losing the football. After he lost it the second time, it went right into the pylon. Which creates a touchback.”

The Packers still could’ve challenged the play had the Bears not, too. But that this was a self-inflicted thing — the Bears technically “won” the challenge, and thus kept their timeout — made it all the more maddening in a seven-point loss. 

“I feel like we were rolling as an offense,” Cunningham said. “I feel like that play did have a big impact on the game. Worst case scenario, we walk away with three points in that situation. You never want to leave points on the field. It most definitely played a big part in today’s game.”