The 2018 Bears season is now in the rear view mirror after a tragic, but not totally unexpected, ‘thud’, literally. Like many, I held my breath, and bent the bill of my cap over my eyes, as I watched kicker Cody Parkey line up to make a kick that would put the Bears in the next round of the NFL playoffs. Then he kicked the ball, it sailed through the uprights, and a sigh of relief–“Oh, they iced the kicker. Of course,”
Predictably, the Eagles called a time out, just as Parkey was making the kick. No problem. He did it once, he can do it again, I said to myself. Slowed breathing, and more folding the bill of my cap over my eyes. The next kick didn’t go so well. It drifted right to left as it inched closer to the uprights. Then, ‘thud’, it hit the left upright, then hit the crossbar for another ‘thud’. I somehow, for a split second, thought it bounced in. I threw my hat. It was no good.
It was kind of a fitting end to the 2018 season. This story goes back to the weekend before the 2016 season started. Ryan Pace, and then coach John Fox made the unscrupulous decision of dumping the most accurate kicker, and all time scoring leader, Robbie Gould. They then went out and signed Connor Barth, and had the nerve to call it an upgrade. I was pissed. I wrote about it at the time. It came back to bite the Bears over the next two seasons, and into a third. The Bears went out and got what they thought was a solid kicker in Cody Parkey in 2018. Parkey had a solid rookie campaign with the Eagles actually, but they cut him for their current kicker Jake Elliott. Parkey’s struggles were well documented this year, including a game where he missed 2 field goals, and 2 point after tries, hitting the uprights, in all 4 misses.
In all, Parkey missed 7 FGs, and 3 PATs in 2018, including hitting the uprights a grand total of 6 times. There was a video going around of Parkey having fun by kicking a football into a tall light post. Practice makes perfect, right? I’m sure it’s just an odd coincidence.
I haven’t heard it yet, but no one seems to be mentioning Parkey made his previous 3 FGs from the left hashmark. He then tried the last kick from the right hashmark. The Bears had about 15 seconds left on 3rd down, but head coach Matt Nagy decided to throw for the endzone, instead of running the ball and lining up on the left hashmark. A kicker should be able to hit from anywhere, but some like a specific side, or straight on. Cody was clearly kicking from the left side. Perhaps another coincidence.
Enough about kicking. The Bears had many chances in the game. The game should never have come down to a kick. They picked off Super Bowl MVP 2 times, but only had 3 points to show for it. During the regular season the Bears were tops in points off turnovers. They also abandoned the run again even though they were mostly successful. They also got ‘jobbed’ by the refs after a replay clearly showed Anthony Miller catching, and fumbling a ball that no one chose to recover. Also not the first time a Bears player has done this in a playoff game. I’m not sure why the ball was ruled dead, and returned to the team that fumbled (this has happened before).
Where do the Bears go from here? Perhaps they will bring a few kickers into camp, and have a proper competition. I expect everyone to grow, and get a year ‘smarter’, especially in Matt Nagy’s complex offense. The biggest question is health. The Bears had a relatively good year as far as injuries go. That’s never guaranteed. The best thing is that they have a solid QB in place, most of the offense will be back. The Bears could (and should) lose defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to one of the 8 coaching vacancies. He is set to interview with Miami, and Denver. I personally think Vic is more than qualified to be an NFL head coach. His biggest question is who can he bring to run the offense?
I’m not mad, it was a great season. One you knew would be trouble if it came down to a game winning kick. It’s just the suddenness, the abrupt stop, and the feeling they wasted a great season by the defense. The playoffs go on. Then there is the Senior Bowl, the Super Bowl, Free agency, and the draft. This week will be hard. The focus moves onto 2019. The 1984 Bears got knocked out of the playoffs before winning the Super Bowl the next year. I’m hoping history repeats itself.