Bears beat Broncos 16-14 on Eddy Pineiro’s 53-yard field goal as time expires
An insane scene unfolds in Denver. Inside the twists and turns of the one minute that might’ve been a season-saver for the Bears.
DENVER — Khalil Mack was drained, dropping to the ground to rest for a moment.
Buster Skrine imagined facing angry teammates as he took the blame for a brutal loss.
Mitch Trubisky was on the hook for another inadequate performance.
But it all flipped as the Bears emerged with a 16-14 victory Sunday against the Broncos on Eddy Pineiro’s 53-yard field goal as time expired.
‘‘Woooooo,’’ defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said, giving his post-game interview in a cowboy hat and an Old West accent — the kind of ridiculousness that only happens after a victory. ‘‘Hot darn it, we got it done. We needed that. It’s good to be 1-1.’’
The grueling afternoon came down to a minute of madness at the end. The Bears blew a 13-3 lead in the fourth quarter, and their exhausted defense let the Broncos go on a 62-yard touchdown drive to pull to 13-12 with 31 seconds left.
Broncos coach Vic Fangio, the Bears’ former defensive coordinator, wanted to go for a two-point conversion and the victory, but a delay-of-game penalty made that imprudent. So he opted for the tie, which would be a 37-yard extra point for Brandon McManus.
McManus missed wide right, and the Bears’ sideline erupted. But Skrine was flagged for offside while trying to jump the snap. That gave the Broncos another try for two, this time from the 1-yard line, and Joe Flacco found Emmanuel Sanders in the end zone for a 14-13 lead.
That’s usually where these stories end, but the Bears clung to their dwindling hope. Trubisky fired a 25-yard pass to receiver Allen Robinson down the middle of the field, and he got down a millisecond before the clock hit zero so the Bears could call a timeout.
Then Pineiro came through from 53 yards with a kick that was low but looked good from the instant it left his foot.
‘‘He came out and nailed that [expletive],’’ Mack said. ‘‘[Expletive], that’s how you play ball. Glad to get the win and get the hell up out of here.’’
The Bears poured onto the field in a wild celebration.
Pineiro’s heroic kick turned the visiting locker room into a party, and nobody was more grateful for it than Skrine. His penalty was ultimately a mere footnote.
‘‘I was trying to make a play,’’ he said, adding that the snapper duped him moving by twisting the ball just before the snap. ‘‘Block that, and we win the game. Thank God for Eddy, my guardian angel.’’
The Bears barely got their timeout called after Robinson’s catch at the Broncos’ 35-yard line, and the officials had to talk about whether there was a fraction of a second in which coach Matt Nagy could have called it.
Nagy was on top of it all the way. He told the referee to stay by him so he could call his last timeout, if needed.
‘‘I saw him go down when I was calling it, so I really felt confident there was one second left,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘The second he caught the ball, I just kept doing it. He’s not allowed to actually blow the whistle until it’s truly dead, but every second — every half-second — matters.’’
With incredibly good timing, Nagy devoted part of Saturday to drilling into his players’ heads that they needed to fight to the end, regardless of how bleak a situation appears. He was inspired by the Saints’ victory last Monday, in which they fell behind with 37 seconds left but won on a 58-yard field goal on the final play. He made the Bears watch that drive in preparation for the game.
‘‘He said it on the sideline: ‘Hey, the Saints did it. We can do it, too,’ ’’ Skrine said. ‘‘It gives you hope that it can be done. As long as you’ve got the ball and one second, you can win.’’
A loss would have dropped the Bears to 0-2, a particularly perilous position considering the Packers moved to 2-0 by beating the Vikings earlier in the day.
‘‘We ain’t worried about it now,’’ Mack said.