One of the most controversial new rules of the 2011 season relates to the placement of the kickoff. With the NFL realizing that the kick-return play is one of the most dangerous in the game, the league has essentially tried to take bullets out of the gun, moving the kickoff point up five yards in order to engineer more touchbacks — and thus fewer returns.
The Bears opposed the move, and on Saturday night they ignored it. Twice.
According to Mike Pereira of FOX Sports, the Bears lined up their first and second kickoffs from Robbie Gould at the 30, not the 35. Per Pereira, NFL V.P. of officiating Carl Johnson (Pereira’s successor) called Soldier Field and “put a stop to it.”
He shouldn’t have had to. The officials running the game should have known where to line up the ball. Even if, as Pereira explains it, the Bears wanted to be able to practice kick coverage against the Bills and weren’t simply rebelling against the rule, the Bears should have been required to line up at the 35 when kicking the ball off.
After two kicks from the 30, they were.
Of course, if they really wanted to kick off from the 30 that badly, all they had to do was commit a five-yard penalty.