The Bears’ 16-15 playoff loss Sunday to the Eagles might be yesterday’s news, but its ripple effect isn’t going away.
Fans who say the Bears are so close to being a Super Bowl team have no guarantee they will progress from where they are now. Teams go up and down fast in the NFL.
Injuries happen. Critical assistant coaches leave. The ball bounces in odd ways.
Yes, the 1984 Bears were blanked 23-0 by the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park, then mauled their way to the title in Super Bowl XX the next season.
I was at Candlestick, and I’ll never forget middle linebacker Mike Singletary on the sideline after the game, his eyes afire like a snake-handling preacher’s, screaming at the crowd, ‘‘We will be back!’’
The Bears came back, but they should have won another Super Bowl, maybe two more. It didn’t happen. Injuries, trades, defections, loss of vision. You think things follow logical lines in football, but they don’t.
What we end up with are symbols of what happened and what might have been.
For better or worse, kicker Cody Parkey is now a symbol. Parkey missed a 43-yard field-goal attempt with 10 seconds left against the Eagles. Just like that, a shimmering candle was extinguished, and Bears players, coaches and fans were left stunned in the winter dark.
What just happened? It was almost unbelievable.
Yes, there were so many ways the Bears could have won the game before the double-clank shocker off Parkey’s foot. I can count the obvious ones: the fourth down on the Eagles’ go-ahead touchdown the Bears blew, the missed touchdown opportunity at the end of the first half, the two-point conversion that didn’t work, quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s lousy 105 yards passing in the first half, the odd middle-of-the-night groin injury that kept tight end Trey Burton out of the game.
But, sadly for Parkey, none of that matters. They’re saying his kick was deflected by Eagles defensive lineman Treyvon Hester. I can say this: Neither I nor anyone at Soldier Field noticed any interference with the kick in the moment. Indeed, the official summary sheet distributed in the press box after the game made no mention of the kick being blocked or deflected.
No matter that it now is being called a blocked kick. There had not been an over-the-wall assault by the Eagles. It was a basic jump-and-pray block attempt by one player. Kickers need to account for such things. Low, line-drive kicks that get deflected are the kicker’s fault.
I watched Parkey during pregame warmups, and he seemed to have trouble from any lengthy distance. He tried
several kicks from 53 yards, some of them low shots that certainly would have been blocked and a few of them that went through.
If coach Matt Nagy and Trubisky had settled for a five-yard completion on the play before Parkey’s kick, that might have changed the game, too. Instead, Trubisky threw up a prayer to receiver Anthony Miller in the end zone, and Parkey was left with a 43-yard attempt instead of, perhaps, a 38-yarder.
Back in Super Bowl XXV in 1991, kicker Scott Norwood missed a last-second 47-yard field goal and the Bills lost to the Giants 20-19. The Bills entered the game heavily favored, and everybody knew they would win a Super Bowl soon. Instead, they played in four consecutive Super Bowls, and that first one was the closest they got to winning.
Norwood essentially went into hiding after playing one more season with the Bills. Did the missed kick hurt him?
‘‘It’s still very fresh, very real,’’ Norwood told the Buffalo News in a rare interview two years ago. ‘‘I get emotional. It’s like when I think about my parents and when they died. People always say time will take care of that. I don’t think it really does.’’
Steve Bartman’s self-imposed exile from Wrigley Field comes to mind here, too. Bartman didn’t cause the Cubs’ collapse in the National League Championship Series in 2003; he was merely a symbol of it. But symbols mean much to us.
It took the Cubs’ redemptive World Series title in 2016 to get rid of the stigma. Yet Bartman still remains underground. Such is the residual pain.
It would be terrible if Parkey, no matter how much he has been paid, lives his life with such pain. That’s one reason the Bears need to win a Super Bowl soon.
Good luck to all.