Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of questions from fans on ChicagoBears.com.
I understand why pass rushers aren't allowed to hit quarterbacks in their knees. But I don't think that Kyler Gordon deserved a penalty for making contact with Marcus Mariota's feet Sunday in Atlanta. What is the language of the actual rule?
In the NFL Rulebook, Article 11 section 'D' states that "a rushing defender is prohibited from forcibly hitting in the knee area or below a passer who has one or both feet on the ground, even if the initial contact is above the knee. It is not a foul if the defender is blocked (or fouled) into the passer and has no opportunity to avoid him." There is also a note that provides more clarity, however. It reads: "It is not a foul if the defender swipes or grabs a passer in the knee area or below in an attempt to tackle him, provided he does not make forcible contact with the helmet, shoulder, chest, or forearm." Kyler Gordon did not do that. Watching the replay numerous times, it appears that after stumbling on his blitz, Gordon contacted Marcus Mariota with his left hand just under the quarterback's left knee and with his right hand on Mariota's right foot. Commenting on the penalty flag, Fox Sports analyst Darryl Johnston said: "I'd pick that one up, if that was me. It's not meeting the standard of the rule. It's not a shot into the lower part of the body." It was a tough break for the Bears because it came on a third-and-8 incompletion, sustaining a drive that the Falcons capped with a TD to take a 24-17 third-quarter lead.
Why did the Bears decide to go for the long field goal late in the first half?
The Bears decided to have Cairo Santos attempt a 56-yard field goal last Sunday in Atlanta because he had told coaches that his range based on pregame warmups inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium was 58 yards. Coach Matt Eberflus said after the game that Santos hit the kick—which grazed the bottom of the crossbar—a little bit too low and a little bit too much in the middle of the ball. Interestingly, the ball that Santos had selected as his top 'K' ball to kick in the game had been taken out of play earlier in the second quarter after Cordarrelle Patterson returned it 103 yards for a touchdown. Officials removed the ball so it could be sent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame to commemorate Patterson's NFL record-breaking ninth kickoff return TD. Before every game, kickers select three 'K' balls to be used, ranking them in order of preference. Did kicking the Bears' second best ball cost Santos one or two feet on his 56-yard attempt that would have made a difference? We'll never know.
Do you think Jack Sanborn is good enough to be a regular starter next season?
I want to see him do it for an extended period of time, but Jack Sanborn has performed very well while starting the last three games at middle linebacker. To me, he has great instincts and is a hard hitter. His football intelligence is very high and it's enabled him to play fast. Veteran defensive tackle Justin Jones said earlier this week that he hasn't seen rookies play as fast as Sanborn and safety Jaquan Brisker have this season since Pro Bowl safety Derwin James with the Chargers in 2018. Sanborn has shown his playmaking ability, especially against the Lions when he recorded a team-leading 12 tackles and 2.0 sacks and also had an impressive interception that was negated by a penalty. At this point, I would pencil Sanborn in to be the Bears' starting middle linebacker next season. But like I said, I'd love to see him continue to perform at a high level the rest of the year and leave no doubt.