Just when everything seemed to be sailing along beautifully for the Bears heading into the start of the season, it’s time to make sure everybody is fully stocked on antacids.
Buy in bulk, Matt Nagy.
One week after drilling the preseason kick heard ’round the world, Eddy Pineiro took a jackhammer to all the belief and relief he engendered within the fan base by shanking an extra point in the first quarter Thursday in the Bears’ 19-15 loss to the Titans.
It’s the worst thing he could’ve done in a preseason finale that would’ve otherwise passed without notice.
“Just missed it,” Pineiro said, pacifying no one.
It was a brutal miss with final roster cuts looming Saturday afternoon. Nagy was noncommittal about Pineiro’s future but appeared comfortable with the thought of Pineiro being his kicker for the opener against the Packers next week.
“He’s been through a lot of challenges that we’ve given him,” Nagy said. “To his credit, he’s worked through and fought through all of that.
“That would be a major concern if you’re going to get somebody that’s never kicked in here. We’ve fought through to this point right now. I like where he’s at. . . . Is that the route we want to go? If it is, then we just need to have a little bit of patience.”
A missed extra point would be forgettable — maybe even a little amusing — for almost any other team. In Chicago, it’s panic-inducing. Boos rumbled through Soldier Field as Pineiro jogged to the sideline. His line drive went wide left from 33 yards.
How many years will it take before kicking becomes ordinary again for the Bears? Extra points are usually a prime opportunity to head to the fridge, but here they’re must-see TV in the worst way.
In fact, Titans kicker Ryan Succop botched an extra point the next quarter, and that will be forgotten by the end of this sentence. That’s how it usually goes.
But pressure ratchets up at Soldier Field, the most miserable kicking environment in the known universe. Whenever Elon Musk inevitably starts an expansion team on Neptune, even with its far stronger gravitational pull, kickers will still say they prefer it to the Chicago lakefront.
The Bears have four home games in November and December, plus plans of hosting playoff games in January. The most important kicks of Pineiro’s career, if he holds the job that long, will come in brutal conditions.
In two preseason games on balmy and clear August nights, he missed a 48-yarder and an extra point.
He followed his early fiasco by making a 32-yarder and a 39-yarder into the north end zone before halftime and a 35-yarder in the third quarter.
“What I thought was pretty powerful was he came back and made the next kick and then made two more after that,” Nagy said. “I like what he’s done so far. I’m proud of the kid.”
Going 3-for-3 on field goals might have been enough for Pineiro to regain his confidence, but it’s doubtful Bears fans went to bed at peace with the team’s kicker situation.
The weightiest opinions, though, are those of Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace heading into the frenzy of the waiver wire. They’ll have the chance to pounce on 10 or so newly available kickers if they think one of them is an upgrade.
Bet on Pineiro staying.
“I want to see a great success story with this kid,” Nagy said. “We all do. Hopefully he’s somebody that we stick with, and he wins us games. The next couple of days here, a lot of stuff can happen, so you just never know.”
Nagy likes to go by “feel” as much as analytics and was struck by the team embracing Pineiro after his 58-yard field goal in Indianapolis last week. Moreover, when the Bears cut Fry and essentially said Pineiro was their guy, there was a sense that his teammates accepted him as part of the group rather than someone who was still auditioning.
They had his back Thursday, too.
“Everybody just said to keep your head up,” Pineiro said. “Just bounce back. That’s what I tried to do. I hit the three field goals and couldn’t have done anything else.”
But Nagy is also going to go by feel if that sentiment fizzles once the games matter. Job security is nonexistent for a kicker on this team, and the Bears won’t hesitate to boot him by the end of next month if he’s shaky.