Darnell Mooney

Darnell Mooney ‘didn't think he was touched' on bizarre opening play refs blew dead

The Bears could have opened Sunday's game with a bang, but the refs blew it dead, and things never got back on track in Los Angeles

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- The Bears opened Sunday night's game against the Los Angeles Chargers with a bang as Tyson Bagent hit Darnell Mooney for a 41-yard strike on the opening play.

The early explosive play got the Bears into Chargers territory, but it could have been more had the refs not blown the play dead when Mooney went to the ground to secure the catch. As Mooney went to the turf, Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. went by without touching him down. Mooney popped up and started running down the sideline, but the refs stopped the play, signaling that Mooney had been downed by contact.

He had not.

"Didn't think I was down. Felt like I could have scored on that play," Mooney said after the Bears' 30-13 loss at SoFi Stadium.

"I was just making sure I had the ball. I felt like I got up fast. Then I was just turning over, and I started running and then I started hearing the whistle. I didn't feel like I was touched at all."

Mooney said he didn't ask for an explanation for the call, but head coach Matt Eberflus said Mooney has to do a better job of forcing the refs to take a look at the play by sprinting to the end zone to sell the score.

"I told Mooney that he has to get up and be convincing," Eberflus said after the loss. "When he gets up, go. That's
what I told Mooney afterward, he just needs to get up and go and go house the thing and then let them make the decision. Don't have any indecision there. Made a heck of a catch for sure and really good play. But again, I don't know what the outcome of that in terms of what they said."

Nothing went right for the Bears after the opening explosive to Mooney.

The Bears allowed the Chargers to score on each of their first four possessions, and the offense couldn't find a groove behind Bagent.

The Bears were sloppy, lacked execution and physicality, and were non-competitive from the second play onward.

A week after a solid outing in a win over the Las Vegas Raiders, Bagent looked overwhelmed against a Chargers defense with NFL tape on him and how the Bears wanted him to operate the offense.

A glaring example came during the second quarter when Bagent dropped back and threw a ball toward DJ Moore on the left sideline that Ja'Sir Taylor easily intercepted. After the interception, Mooney and Moore spent time on the sideline discussing what happened in the play.

Mooney explained that the routes he and Moore were supposed to run changed with the coverage. Bagent saw one coverage at the snap while he and Moore identified it as a different look. Bagent thought Moore was running a hitch, but the coverage the Chargers played asked Moore to take his route upfield.

"DJ saw the coverage, I saw the coverage," Mooney said. "I guess we were the only two that kind of saw what was going on. It was a little invert."

Bagent backed up Mooney's diagnosis after the loss.

"They went invert two. A little miscommunication between me and [Moore]," Bagent said. "That's completely on me. I just have to get off of it and continue to go through my progression."

Nothing went right for the Bears on Sunday in Los Angeles, starting with a bizarre opening play that was blown dead and cost them a touchdown.

Things snowballed from there as Bagent and the Bears were jolted back to reality in a humbling loss. Maybe Mooney scoring on the opening play changes the outcome, maybe not. It would have, at the very least, allowed Bagent and the Bears to play from ahead at the start, something that could have made life easier on a developmental quarterback with some limitations.

But the refs blew it dead with no protest from Mooney. That lack of fight was a sign of things to come for the next 60 minutes at SoFi.

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