As the Chicago Bears continue to prep for their Week 10 matchup against the Green Bay Packers, there are mounting concerns and criticism for kicker Connor Barth.
Barth has been inconsistent through his two seasons as the Bears place kicker replacing then fan-favorite Robbie Gould before the start of the 2016 season. The inaccuracy of the Bears kicker through the John Fox tenure has actually been one of the main reasons for the Bears poor record the last three years.
When John Fox was hired as the head coach in 2015, the Bears had few scoring threats on offense to work with, but still had Gould to provide a lift on special teams. Gould started the 2015 season off perfect making his first 17 attempts. His first miss of the season was costly one at home against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Bears had a 20-13 lead late in the fourth quarter only to give up 10 unanswered points in the last two minutes of the game. Gould missed a 51-yard field goal in the third quarter which would have made the score 23-13 late and at least allowed the Bears to go into overtime instead of losing by three points.
The Vikings loss was not directly held against Gould, but two games back to back in December were with the Bears vying for a playoff position. The first was the game against the 49ers where he missed two kicks, one being a 40-yarder and the other being a 36-yard attempt. The last one was brutal because it came at the end of regulation with the Bears offense lining up Gould for an almost perfect attempt to win the game.
He ended up missing the kick wide left forcing overtime to where the Bears fell to the 49ers and their record went to 5-7.
The next week, Gould had a chance to tie the game up at 24 late in the fourth quarter against the visiting Washington Redskins but missed left on a 49-yard attempt leading to 24-21 Bears loss. The back-to-back losses dropped the Bears to 5-8 on the season and all but ended their playoff hopes.
Had Gould made those three crucial kicks, the Bears would have finished with a nine and seven record in 2015. A winning record following the historically bad 2014 would have been a lift for everyone involved in the Bears organization at the time.
Heading into the 2016 season, Gould struggled in training camp and was cut on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend as the Bears chose to go in a different direction and sign Barth.
Barth came from New Orleans where he excelled in attempts 40 yards and closer, but struggled with accuracy with 40 yards or longer. Barth missed on his first field goal attempt as a Bear against the Eagles on Monday Night Football.
Barth’s inconsistencies continued throughout the season as there was a few games where a missed field goal by him would come back to hurt the Bears at the end of the game. The first game was against the Indianapolis Colts when midway through third quarter Barth missed two attempts on back to back plays after a defensive penalty gave him a second chance.
The Bears lost 29-23 to the Colts after they failed to score a touchdown late in the game. The Bears drove deep into Colts territory and would have been able to kick a field goal to tie the game instead of having to score a touchdown had Barth made his kick.
In November, Barth hurt the Bears chances of winning against the Giants as he not only missed a field goal attempt, but an extra point attempt as well. The Giants won 22-16 and again the Bears had a chance to win the game late as they drove deep into Giants territory, but Jay Cutler threw an interception ending the game as it would be his last pass attempt as a Chicago Bear.
Barth’s four missed points robbed the Bears of being in position to win with a possible game-winning kick as they were in field goal range during the final drive.
The two losses didn’t cost the Bears the season, but a five-win season always looks better than a three-win season.
The more important aspect is that for a team that found itself in close games at the end, the Bears needed to have a more accurate kicker. Had John Fox led the Bears to a winning record in 2015, there would be no talk about his job being in jeopardy at the end of this season as he most likely would have been a candidate for coach of the year in 2015. The losses in 2016 only were magnified because of how similar the losses were to those from the year prior.
This season has feature more missed kicks from Barth as well as he has missed four of his 11 attempted field goals so far this season with one against Pittsburgh that could have saved the Bears from having to go into overtime to win the game. At the moment, the Bears have chosen to stick with Barth after this past week’s bye week, but that could change following the Packers depending on his performance. With the team needing to win games down the stretch, the organization is taking a big risk on sticking with Barth. If a missed kick costs the Bears a playoff deciding win, Barth and the coaching staff may be looking for new jobs in the offseason.