Why didn’t Matt Eberflus challenge Isaiah Coulter catch?

Matt Eberflus

NFL preseason football is about more than just players preparing for the regular season. Coaches sharpen their game, too, including when to throw the red challenge flag.

Chicago Bears coach Matt Eberflus is in his first season as an NFL head coach and will be charged with the responsibility to challenge questionable plays in 2022. He had his first opportunity to toss the red hanky after wide receiver Isaiah Coulter made what appeared to be a fantastic catch in the second quarter of the Bears-Seahawks game Thursday night.

ESPN’s television crew showed several angles of what appeared to be Coulter securing the ball on top of his forearm. It would’ve been a remarkable third-down conversion by quarterback Trevor Siemian. Coulter’s confident reaction after the play isn’t uncommon for receivers who think they caught the ball, but he was right. It was a clean reception.

The Bears were flagged for a delay of game on the next play. The extra deliberation time didn’t change the outcome; Eberflus didn’t challenge the ruling on the field. It was a critical error by the rookie coach, who explained what happened after the game.

“A couple coaches on the sideline thought it bounced on the ground,” he said. “We got one good look upstairs, and that was it. We didn’t have a second look at it, so we just decided to let it go. In real time, in a real game, maybe I would’ve thrown (the challenge flag). But we didn’t have the second look.”

It’s unclear why the Bears didn’t have that second look, and it’s also a bit odd to think Eberflus would be riskier in a regular season game than a summer scrimmage.

Regardless, it’s a learning experience for Matt Eberflus who’s otherwise been fantastic in his first preseason in Chicago.

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