Bears kickers fight for starting job while most other starters sit in loss to Giants

In the Bears’ preseason games, the starters sit, backups play and the kickers increasingly become the only players that matter.

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Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro reacts after making a field goal against the Giants during the first quarter Friday.

AP Photos

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Out of timeouts with 16 seconds left in the first half of Friday night’s 32-13 loss, the Bears knew they had to complete a pass, run to the line of scrimmage and spike the ball before the clock expired.

The Giants weren’t playing the zone defense the Bears expected. Starting for Mitch Trubisky, quarterback Chase Daniel found Javon Wims open for a 29-yard completion and the receiver was tackled at the Giants’ 9. The second-year player made a veteran move, setting the ball down on the left hashmark as his teammates ran up to the line of scrimmage.

When Daniel spiked it, there was one second left on the clock.

“We practice that play and that situation literally all the time,” Daniel said. “So to see it come to fruition on the field was awesome.“

The Bears’ longest play of the game, though, might have been the worst thing to happen to them. Eddy Pineiro’s 27-yard field goal off the MetLife Stadium turf was a lot less illustrative than the 56-yard attempt he would have tried had Daniel’s pass fallen incomplete.

“I was itching for a far one,” the kicker said.

He smirked when asked if he wanted Wims to drop the ball.

“I was happy for him,” he said. “I was.”

In the Bears’ preseason games, the starters sit, backups play and the kickers increasingly become the only players that matter. 

Pineiro was the better of the two Friday night. After going 1-for-2 in the opener, he made kicks of 27 and 41 yards. Elliott Fry, who made his only try in the opener, missed his only attempt Friday when a 47-yarder drifted too far left. For the second consecutive game, Fry made the team’s only extra point.

“I’m at a position right now where you get two games into the preseason and they’ve just gotta, again, produce,” coach Matt Nagy said. “Elliott had one kick tonight . . . and he missed it. We’re evaluating. These guys fall right into the [category] of everybody else. 

“These games carry weight. Don’t have regrets. It’s all about production. That’s where we’re at.”

The Bears are also here: content to sit anyone of relevance in the preseason. 

As if the preseason was even noble enough to mock, the Bears continued to make a mockery of it. In the name of safety, of course.

All 11 defensive starters — 12, if you count nickel cornerback Buster Skrine — spent the game on the bench. All 11 offensive players did, too, including a few backup receivers and running backs

“I’m trying to do what’s best for the Chicago Bears . . .” Nagy said. “We love where we’re at right now in regards to our starters. We feel really good about it.”

It’s likely the starters won’t play again this preseason.

At this time last year, Trubisky played 30 snaps and threw 14 passes against the Broncos. After his inaction Friday, Trubisky’s preseason stats are limited to just three handoffs a week ago.

“This will give us a good opportunity as a staff to really be able to evaluate where our backups are versus some starters,” Nagy said. 

The Bears’ reserve defense wore the same white jerseys and navy helmets as their dominant starters do, but the similarities ended there. Four different Giants quarterbacks had touchdown drives.

The Bears’ lone touchdown, meanwhile, came on a one-yard plunge by rookie Kerrith Whyte as they trailed by 13 in the third quarter.

With the exception of leaving guard Kyle Long at home for getting into a fight in practice Wednesday, what little drama the team flashed Friday night was limited to the bottom of the roster. 

Except, of course, for one position. 

Six days after the Bears watched the Vikings outbid them for Ravens kicker Kaare Vedvik, their kicking derby grew even cloudier when they declared their second different winner in two weeks.

“I knew coming in that, ‘I gotta bounce back,’ ” Pineiro said. “It just shows you what type of kicker you are, bouncing back from a miss. That’s what I wanted to do, was bounce back.”

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