To catch, or not to catch, that is the question.
Exactly one decade ago, a new phrase officially entered the football vernacular—one that became a particularly catchy one (pardon the pun) after a wild Bears victory over the Lions at Soldier Field: “Process of a catch.”
On September 12, 2010, the NFC North foes played in their season opener at Soldier Field. The Lions were trailing 19-14 late in the fourth quarter but were driving against Brian Urlacher and company. With 24 seconds left, Shaun Hill found Calvin Johnson in the corner of the end zone over an outstretched Zack Bowman. Touchdown Lions.
Or so we thought.
The play was reviewed and later ruled an incomplete catch with referee Gene Steratore stating, “In order for the catch to be completed he has got to maintain possession of the ball throughout the entire process of the catch.” Replays showed the ball leaving Johnson’s right hand the moment the ball touched the ground. The Lions failed to score on their final two plays, sending the Bears into the win column.
The play set off a frenzied debate about what exactly constituted a “catch” by NFL standards. Close calls routinely ended up in the replay booth. Cheering for a touchdown, at times, became muted until there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt that what fans saw was, indeed, a catch.
Finally a new rule, sometimes dubbed 'The Calvin Johnson Rule,' came into effect in 2018 that outlined what exactly a catch was: control of the ball, two feet or another body part down on the ground and a “football act or move” such as reaching for the goal line or tucking the ball away.
But if the Bears had held on to the football a little better themselves earlier in that game ten years ago, there may have never been a Calvin Johnson Rule—at least by his name. While the Bears outgained the Lions 463-168, four turnovers –including a Cutler pick and lost fumble—kept Lovie Smith’s crew in catch-up mode for most of the afternoon.
That said, Cutler still put up a monster day, going for 372 yards on 23-35 passing with two touchdowns to Matt Forte. And Forte was equally impressive, eclipsing 200 total yards—151 of them on the receiving end.
One of those touchdowns came just before halftime. With the Bears down 14-3 and backed up toward their own end zone, Forte took a nifty screen pass from Cutler and scampered 89 yards to the house.
The Bears trailed the Lions until late in the fourth quarter, where Forte and Cutler hooked up again. A 28-yard strike proved to be the eventual game winner.
Lance Briggs had a stellar day on defense, racking up 10 tackles (nine solo).
Sunday’s game will mark the first such opener between the Bears and Lions since that 2010 Week 1 affair at Soldier Field. The Bears are 0-3 in season openers in Detroit, with the most recent contest happening at the Silverdome in 1982.