MINNEAPOLIS — Oh, the irony.
A season that opened with acute trepidation about the Bears’ kicker ended with Eddy Pineiro making a 22-yard field goal to give the team a Week 17 road victory — and it meant zilch.
As it turns out, after the well-documented search to replace Cody Parkey that was ridiculed nationally and locally, the kicker wasn’t the problem. Pineiro’s game-winner with 10 seconds left in a 21-19 victory against the Vikings was his fourth field goal without a miss Sunday. He also hit from 26, 33 and 34 yards to finish his rookie season with 11 consecutive made field goals.
“It was amazing,” Pineiro said. “I’ve been getting good snaps, good holds all year. The guys blocking for me, all the credit to those guys and the offense getting us down there for an opportunity. It’s a good feeling. I felt like I ended on a good note.”
The Bears’ kicker issue isn’t exactly solved, but Pineiro’s encouraging season puts it way down the list after being at the top of it heading into the season. He had his moments — hitting a 53-yard game-winner against the Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High in Week 2, missing a 41-yarder at the buzzer in a 17-16 loss to the Chargers in Week 8 at Soldier Field.
Overall, Pineiro made 23 of 28 field goals (82.1 percent). But he had one bad stretch — missing 4 of 7 kicks against the Chargers and Rams. Outside of that slump, he made 9 of 10 to start the season and 11 of 11 to finish it.
“Making sure we don’t panic when you go through that slump is the most important part,” coach Matt Nagy said. “For us, you all know, that was a huge, huge, big void that we had going into this year. I feel pretty good that that void was filled. I like the way we handled it in regard to the coaches. And I like the way that Eddy and his guys [handled it]. So I feel that’s a positive from this year.”
Pineiro only attempted two field goals from 50 yards or longer. He made both, but they were at Denver’s high altitude. His longest makes at sea level were from 46 yards against the Saints and Chiefs. Of his 11 field goals to finish the season, only one was beyond 36 yards.
So there’s still a lot of work to be done, but he got through it and gave the Bears a better foundation at kicker than they have at quarterback going into the 2020 season. The experience is invaluable.
“Just kicking in the wind and different places and transitioning from the wind and coming into a dome where there’s no wind,” Pineiro said.
But after a challenging season mentally, Pineiro’s newfound confidence might be the biggest residual impact of the 2019 season.
“The biggest thing is adversity,” Pineiro said. “Missed one obviously against the Chargers and lost the game and came back strong. Just mentally getting out of that slump and going, ‘I’m a good kicker. I’m good enough to play here.’ It’s just getting over that [hurdle].”
When asked how this offseason will be different “now that the job is yours,” Pineiro was realistic.
“I wouldn’t say I have the roster spot,” he said. “I expect people to come in; [I’m] gonna have to compete just like every other position.”
But more than likely he’ll go into the 2020 season as the clear incumbent. In fact, after finishing on a roll, he’s ready for next season to start now.
“Honestly, maybe selfishly, I would love for the season to keep going,” Pineiro said. “It’s kind of sad that the season’s over. I’m just happy I ended on a good note . . . hopefully get ready to compete next year and try to win my job back again.”