Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro wanted ball centered on missed field goal vs. Chargers
The Bears kneeled to set up a game-winning field-goal attempt on the left hash, but Pineiro would’ve liked it better straight down the middle.
Just when it seemed like every possible angle of the Bears’ bungled finish against the Chargers had been exhausted and the city was moving on, an infuriating revelation emerged Tuesday.
On Eddy Pineiro’s last-second field-goal try from 41 yards, which could’ve won the game despite coach Matt Nagy forfeiting any chance of getting closer by taking a knee, the Bears went against their kicker’s preference by setting the ball up on the left hash.
Pineiro made no excuses, saying outright that he alone lost the game, but when pressed Tuesday on the spot of the ball, it was clear he didn’t want it as far left as possible.
“No, I didn’t,” he said. “But it is what it is.”
Nagy stridently defended the decision to kneel — in the aftermath of the 17-16 defeat and again Monday — despite having 45 seconds and a timeout on first down and said flatly, “It’s a 40-yard field goal,” as though those are somehow routine in the field-goal-kicking wasteland known as Soldier Field.
So when Mitch Trubisky drove the Bears from their 35-yard line to the Chargers’ 21, Nagy shut it down and schemed for the kick.
He called a kneel-down, and rather than take a few steps to the right, Trubisky immediately dropped to a knee on the left hash. Nagy let the clock drain to four seconds before calling a timeout, and Pineiro’s kick drifted left for a near miss and the Bears’ third consecutive loss.
As if that wasn’t exasperating enough, the most egregious error in this ill-advised plan might’ve been the Bears having total control over where they put the ball within the 18½ feet between the hash marks and thoughtlessly sabotaging their kicker by picking the worst possible inch.
Pineiro seemed like he would’ve rather had it centered.
“I guess,” he said, once he realized the potential mess his admission was making for Nagy. “I don’t know.”
He backtracked later and said he was fine with kicking from the left.
There are several explanations for how the Bears botched this, and all of them are bad. Did they not know where Pineiro wanted it? Did Nagy not think to ask, even with ample time to do so? Did he order Trubisky to kneel in the center but Trubisky forgot?
Be mad at Pineiro for missing, but don’t blame him for reopening this wound by giving honest answers.
It’s not revisionist history, either, when he says kicking from the farthest-left possible point worked against him.
Pineiro never chooses that when it’s up to him. It’s inexcusable if Nagy or special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor didn’t know that on 12 extra points, when the kicking team places the ball, Pineiro has never opted to kick from the left. He chose the center 10 times and the right twice.
And as a right-footed kicker trying to navigate a sturdy right-to-left wind, it’s obvious why the left hash was disadvantageous.
“The snap, the hold — everything was perfect,” Pineiro said. “I just could have aimed a little bit more right. I mean, the wind was going really hard. . . . If I could go back, I’d aim a little bit more right.”
The Bears could’ve bought him that margin before the kick by simply kneeling the ball where he wanted. When Nagy declares he’d do the same thing “a thousand times,” hopefully he’d at least amend this part.
The whole sequence was so ridiculous and costly that it borders on pointless to scrutinize any one part of it, but it’s a debacle that won’t go away for the Bears.
Not when kicker is the most high-pressure position on the team after the last guy got cut for getting one tipped at the line of scrimmage in a playoff game.
Not when Nagy doubled down on a call hardly anyone agreed with and presented it as a meticulously thought-out decision.
Not when the Bears’ Super Bowl dreams are in tatters.