Even after last-second miss, Bears’ problems run deeper than one kick
For all that hasn’t gone according to plan — Mitch Trubisky has regressed to one of the league’s worst quarterbacks, and Matt Nagy has been unable to pull the right levers, on or off the field — the Bears were betrayed in the end by a familiar fate.
Kicker Eddy Pineiro strolled from the sideline to the middle of the field at the two-minute warning. Even though the Bears’ defense was on the field, he wanted to test the wind. At the 41, he threw a clump of Soldier Field turf in the air. Right to left, he told himself.
One minute and 55 seconds later, down one, Pineiro had his chance to win the game. After an afternoon of offensive ineptitude, the Bears somehow managed a drive that provided him with a 41-yard game-winning attempt. They might have gotten him even closer, too, but coach Matt Nagy called a kneel-down with 43 seconds left rather than run the ball.
Kicking into the north end zone that Cody Parkey made famous, Pineiro hooked his kick left at the final gun Sunday to lose to the woeful Chargers 17-16.
The Bears’ season is bordering between colossal disappointment and trailer fire.
For all that hasn’t gone according to plan this season — Mitch Trubisky has regressed to one of the league’s worst quarterbacks, and Nagy has been unable to pull the right levers, on or off the field — the Bears were betrayed in the end by a familiar fate.
They missed a field goal.
“I have ultimate faith in him,” Nagy said. “I do. It just happens to be in our situation, it just gets completely magnified because of where we’ve been before.”
You can’t make this up: Pineiro doinked a 33-yarder off the right upright in the first quarter.
Pineiro said the Soldier Field wind “switches up every second,” much less between the two-minute timeout and the end of the game.
“I just got to go to practice and try to come back to Soldier Field and manipulate the wind,” he said. “Try to beat the wind.”
At this point, the Bears would be happy to beat anything.
One week after looking lost against the Saints, Trubisky did little to assuage fears about his future.
In the first half alone, the Bears ran 12 goal-to-go plays — and scored no touchdowns. They were booed off the field at halftime when they had three plays from inside the Chargers’ 4 — and, after a third-down pass-interference flag, three more from the 1 — and were forced to settle for Pineiro’s third field goal.
The second half’s opening drive was the Bears’ strongest of the season. After 10 plays — including a 31-yard pass to wide receiver Allen Robinson — rookie David Montgomery ran in for a touchdown on first-and-goal from the 4-yard line.
A week after running seven times all game, the Bears rushed 38 times for 162 yards. Montgomery had 27 carries for 135 yards, both career highs. A spread-offense coach, Nagy even lined Montgomery up behind a fullback. When he did on the Bears’ first offensive play, Montgomery carried for 10 yards, the team’s longest run in four weeks.
After Montgomery’s touchdown, the Bears’ defense allowed the Chargers to drive 67 yards, setting up first-and-goal at the 7, before forcing a 20-yard field goal by Chase McLaughlin. Only good fortune prevented a repeat on the next drive: Wide receiver Keenan Allen dropped a touchdown before McLaughlin, a rookie from Illinois, missed a 42-yard field goal.
With the Bears up six, Trubisky gave the ball away on consecutive possessions. The first turnover — cornerback Casey Hayward’s interception after he fell off covering a post route — led to McLaughlin’s miss. On the next drive, Trubisky overthrew Taylor Gabriel deep and fumbled on the next play when Joey Bosa pushed left tackle Charles Leno into him. Three plays later, Philip Rivers threw an 11-yard pass to Austin Ekeler with 8:12 to play to take the lead.
The teams traded punts before Trubisky’s last drive. He completed a 22-yard pass to Gabriel and a nine-yarder to Robinson and, after a two-yard run by Montgomery, scrambled for 11 more. Then Nagy decided to take a knee, and Pineiro missed the kick.
Despite being favored to win every game, the Bears are 3-4 and in last place in the NFC North.
Unlike last year, their problems go deeper than one kick.
“It’s a gut check,” said Trubisky, who went 23-for-35 for 253 yards and a 75.1 passer rating. “Who’s going to rise to the challenge this week? Who’s going to continue to work hard and stick together when we’re going through adversity?”
The Bears seemed defiant. They had little else to hold on to.
“Either people are with us or they’re against us,” inside linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “I wanna say, ‘Don’t come back on our side when we get it rolling.’ ”