The Chicago Bears 2018 season came to a depressing end Sunday night as kicker Cody Parkey missed 43-yard field goal giving the Philadelphia Eagles a 16-15 win.
It was the sixth time this season Parkey missed a kick due to hitting the upright having the ball bounce back. For all the right decisions made by general manager Ryan Pace, the one position he hasn’t solved has been at kicker.
When Pace was hired in 2015 to rebuild the team, the Bears had Robbie Gould as their kicker as the special teams were the one aspect of the team that didn’t need to be immediately fixed. The 2015 Bears would contend for a playoff spot through the season, but two early-December losses to the San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins ruined the possibility. Gould was responsible for those two losses as he missed a 36-yard field goal as time expired which would have given the team a 23-20 win.
In overtime, San Francisco won the game 26-20. In their next game against the Redskins, the Bears trailed late but got down into field goal position with less than two minutes to go. Trailing 24-21, Gould would miss a 50-yard field goal leading to Washington holding onto the victory.
Had the Bears won those two games, they would have had a 7-6 record with three games to go, instead, they finished 6-10.
Before the start of the 2016 season, Pace made the bold decision to cut the team’s longtime kicker in favor of Connor Barth. Barth would miss five field goals in 2016. Two of the games in which he missed a kick, the Bears lost by 6 points. Instead of needing a touchdown to win, the Bears would have had chances to tie the game as in both games they were deep in opponent’s territory.
Last season, Barth would continue to struggle as he missed five kicks through 10 games. The biggest miss came in a 27-24 loss at home against the Detroit Lions. With seconds left, he would miss a 46-yard field goal wide right as time expired which would have forced overtime.
Following the Detroit game, Barth was released and Cairo Santos was brought in as his replacement. Santos would play in one game connecting on one of two field goals before being placed on injured reserve with a groin injury. Mike Nugent was the team’s kicker in the final four games connecting on all four of his field goal attempts but missed two extra point attempts.
Pace believed he had solved the Bears kicking woes this offseason when the team signed Parkey to a four-year deal worth over nine million dollars. In 2017 with the Miami Dolphins, Parkey connected on 21-23 of his field goal attempts. For Chicago this season, he got off to a good start through the first four games making 9 of 10 field goal attempts. In week six on the road in Miami, Parkey had a costly miss of 53 yards in overtime. The Dolphins would win the game as time expired 31-28.
Cause for concern would develop in week 10 when Parkey would miss four attempts against the Detroit Lions in which each kick bounced off the uprights. From the Detroit game on, he would make all but one extra point attempt and one field goal attempt the rest of the season. Although he made the kicks, anytime he would make an attempt, many seemed on unconfident.
Against the Eagles Sunday night, that uneasiness was on display in front of the entire country as he missed the game-winning kick. The missed attempt will most likely be Parkey’s last in a Chicago Bears uniform as given the circumstance there will be no way that Pace can bring him back for the 2019 season.
The Bears were picked by many to make it to the Super Bowl and possibly win it due to their dominant defense and reliable offense. In a season in which they led in all of their games, Chicago’s Super Bowl hopes ended in heartbreak by mere inches.
In the offseason, all eyes will be on Pace to see what he can do to resolve his team’s kicking struggles. When the 2019 season begins, the team will have its sixth kicker in five seasons. With all that he has done to rebuild the Bears into a Super Bowl contender, the one position Pace hasn’t solved is at kicker, which cost the team when it mattered the most.