Bears’ season ends the way it was meant to — with Cody Parkey hitting an upright
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Some things are inexplicable, some things are perfectly obvious and some things are both.
A football off the toe of Cody Parkey that hits an upright belongs in the “both’’ category. It’s a combination of “Again?’’ and “Of course again.’’
Parkey’s potential game-winning field goal Sunday hit the left upright, caromed off the crossbar and bounced right into the offseason. It left the Bears, who had harbored hopes of a nice playoff run, with a shocking 16-15 loss to the Eagles in a first-round game at Soldier Field.
A working title for a movie about this season would be “Cody Parkey and the Uprights: A Love Story.’’ He hit four uprights in a game against the Lions in November, an almost impossible feat. Four, as in foreshadowing.
So when Parkey ran onto the field to line up a 43-yard field goal with 10 seconds left, you could feel the stress level at Soldier Field rise to unhealthy levels. Bears fans had seen this before, which probably explained why more than a few had their eyes closed when the ball was snapped.
Parkey actually made the kick, and the fans roared, but Eagles coach Doug Pederson had called a timeout to ice him.
And ice him he did. With the wind blowing from left to right, the next kick went up and played pinball. By the time it bounced back toward Parkey, it had freezer burn. Eagles defensive tackle Treyvon Hester said he got a hand on the ball before it doinked off the upright and the crossbar.
“I struck a good ball there, and, unfortunately, I can’t make this up: I hit the post, what, six times this year, and I hit it twice on that one,’’ Parkey said. “You can’t make this up. I feel terrible. I let the team down. That’s on me. I have to own it. I have to be a man. Unfortunately, that’s the way it went.’’
After the miss, Parkey stood bent over, hands on knees. The picture of defeat. The picture of his season.
How does an athlete cope with that type of failure?
“I’ll talk to my wife,’’ he said. “She’s always there for me, supporting me. My dog, when I get home, he’s not going to care if I made it or missed it.’’
Attempts to reach the dog for comment were unsuccessful.
A season ended abruptly. A wonderful 12-4 regular season, and then, suddenly, no heartbeat. That’s not all on Parkey. Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky didn’t make a positive difference until the fourth quarter. The Bears’ defense wasn’t nearly as sharp as it usually is. It couldn’t stop Eagles quarterback Nick Foles when it had to.
But the weight of what happened falls on Parkey. Kickers are tolerated until they fail, then they’re excoriated. That’s how it works in the NFL. Bears fans haven’t forgotten that the Bears cut the team’s all-time leading scorer, Robbie Gould, before the 2016 season or that Gould had a great year with the 49ers or that Gould was at Soldier Field with his children on Sunday. Now those fans will have the loss to the Eagles carved into their memories.
Parkey made three field goals against the Eagles. For three quarters-plus, he was the Bears’ only offense. Trubisky didn’t look like he was ready for this big of a stage. He finally came alive in the fourth, but the Bears needed signs of life much, much earlier.
Parkey said he appreciated the support his teammates gave him after the game.
“Every single one of them said they’ve got my back and that they love me and to not let this affect me,’’ he said. “Of course, it’s going to sting for a few days. I’m just being completely honest. I have to move on.’’
Parkey received $9 million in guaranteed money when he signed a four-year contract before the season. The Bears can opt out of the contract after next season.
Asked if he thought his future with the Bears was in jeopardy, he said, “It’s not my job to consider that.’’
Coach Matt Nagy said he was trying to empathize with his kicker.
“The easiest way you look at this is that you put yourself in his situation,’’ he said. “You think he tried to miss that? No, I know that. But you’ve got to learn from that. You’ve got to figure out the why part, and he’ll do that.’’
Nagy meant that Parkey needed to solve the mechanical issues that resulted in the missed kick. But the bigger whys — Why did Parkey miss so many this season and why did the Bears stand by him? — are a lot harder to answer. Now there’s plenty of time for pondering.
It was eerily quiet after the game. Club Dub, the Bears’ postgame locker-room party after victories, gave way to Club Doink. No, it gave way to Club Double Doink.
It was the strangest thing. And totally believable.