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SportsMonday: Cooper's Blooper Not As Bad As You Think

Marcus Cooper did not showboat.

The Bears cornerback committed a massive blunder, the sort that goes down in the annals of greatest sports, yes, bloopers (it is indeed Cooper's Blooper - which someone else thought of well before me, let me assure you).

But he wasn't showboating after he picked up Sherrick McManis's blocked field goal as the last six seconds of the first half ticked away, sprinted almost 70 yards, and then pulled up just short of the end zone, only to have the ball swatted from his hands, costing the Bears a touchdown.

When you watch the replay, as he comes to a stop, Cooper just looks tired. He doesn't look at anyone and he doesn't start to celebrate. He was not grandstanding, he just screwed up. He started slowing down at the 10 because "I didn't hear anybody coming. It was just a mistake on my part. I didn't think anybody was that close to me."

Dunderheaded, sure ("I thought I was in," he also said) but better than the alternative of a premature celebration.

And then John Fox stepped up. There are plenty of reasons seemingly every week to disparage the veteran coach. But in this instance he gave the Bears a chance to score with his understanding of the rules and his persistence. Referee Clete Blakeman had ruled the first half over. The Steelers went to the locker room. But Fox wouldn't let the refs go and apparently convinced them they had erred in allowing the half to end on what qualified as a defensive penalty - batting a fumble out of the end zone. Despite the fact he is named Cletus by the way, Blakeman is one of the better refs in the league.

Because the play happened in the last two minutes, any yardage gained or lost on a fumble was nullified, i.e., the ball had to be returned to the spot where possession was lost. And when that was done, and it occurred to the refs that the Bears were the last team to possess it, that meant the penalty was assessed (from the 1-yard-line to the half-yard-line) and the Steelers had to return for a final untimed play before halftime.

Then the delightful Charles Leno (who was part of a promising performance by the Bears line overall) committed a brutal false start just before the Bears were about to go for the touchdown.

To tell the truth, that penalty was probably a blessing in disguise. The Bears paid a price for Cooper's you-know-what, but they still put some points on the board (which they of course wouldn't have if their initial untimed play had failed). And those points proved critical in a game that was tied at the end of regulation.

Then came by far most fun fact of the day: The Bears won the coin toss at the start of overtime for the 13th consecutive time going back to last season. I kid you not. Awesome radio play-by-play man Jeff Joniak pointed out before the game that the Bears had won 11 consecutive coin flips going into the game-opening toss with the Steelers.

Then came the Bears' game-winning drive, in which rookie phenom Tarik Cohen single-handedly forced all of the Steeler defenders to experience the sort of fatigue that Cooper experienced at the end of the first half. Jordan Howard ended up scoring the game-winning touchdown on an 18-yard run, but after the game he pointed out that the game really ended when Cohen dodged about five tackles and ran from one sideline almost to the other in the midst of what initially seemed to be a long touchdown run but which was brought back to the 37 after the refs ruled he had barely stepped out of bounds.

Even after a delay for a review, the gassed Steelers had nothing left as Howard first gained 19 yards to move into scoring range and then finished off the game with his final awesome run of a crazy afternoon.

Now the Bears have a quick turnaround to face the Packers coming on Thursday night - and no matter what President Don says, it will be Must-See TV.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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