Everyone okay? Has everyone’s blood pressure returned to normal? Okay.
The Chicago Bears eeked out a 16-14 win on the road against the Denver Broncos, thanks to another impressive performance from their defense and rookie kicker Eddy Piñeiro.
Yes! The kicker!
A low-scoring affair from both sides left the game at a 13-6 stalemate for Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco to resolve with 2:48 left in the game. Flacco went on a clutch, 7-for-12 drive that ended in an Emmanuel Sanders touchdown reception with 31 seconds left and included two huge 4th down conversions to Courtland Sutton.
A sequence of plays that can only be described as frustrating for both sides ensued.
Denver, now down 13-12, opted to go for the win and attempt a two-point conversion, a plan that was foiled by an ugly delay of game. Backed up, kicker Brandon McManus trotted out for the PAT and sent it wide right, but was thrown a life-preserver by an offsides penalty from Bears defensive back Buster Skrine. The Broncos got the ball back to its original spot, where Flacco once again connected with Sanders to go ahead 14-13.
“Analytics [are] good and stats are good, but you just have to go with your gut sometimes,” Broncos coach (and former Bear defensive coordinator) Vic Fangio said Monday. “My gut told me to go for two there.”
A sunglass-donning (For the first time?) Matt Nagy clutched his play card and marched down the sideline at a loss for what he’d seen, as his Bears only had half a minute left to respond.
The ensuing drive started at the Bears’ 25 and began with a fortunate break for the Bears. The same roughing-the-passer penalty that haunted the NFL for the first few weeks of last season, and Eddie Goldman earlier in the day, was called against Bradley Chubb. The enforcement advanced the ball to the Bears’ 45 with 24 seconds remaining. Three subsequent incompletions and fifteen ticks later, however, the Bears were called for 12 men in the huddle, leaving them in the face of a 4th & 15 and little hope for a miracle.
“Our guys need to understand that that’s as an important mistake that there can be in a game. That’s a five-yard penalty that means a lot in that situation. We can’t have that. And those are the things that, again, we want our guys to be better at and we want to teach them and use that so they understand it.-Matt Nagy
It’s generally too early to describe a Week Two game as “must-win,” but after seven quarters of the same offensive woes and Mitchell Trubisky struggles, the devastating nature of Sunday’s potential loss could derail the morale of a team expected to contend for a Super Bowl. Massive stakes were baked into the final nine seconds the Bears had left.
Trubisky danced around in a collapsing pocket and stepped up into a crease in the middle. Darting towards the line of scrimmage, he hit his number one man Allen Robinson for a 25-yard gain to the Broncos’ 35. Robinson got to the ground with exactly one second remaining for a time out to be called, and the position that the Bears turned over every rock to resolve was once again front and center.
Eddy Piñeiro, traded for, because of his booming leg and confidence, was 2 for 2 on the day, hitting from 40 and 52 yards out. The 53-yarder he was about to attempt felt like miles for onlooking Bears fans who have been the butt of every kicking joke since January. The collective agonies of the City of Broad Shoulders rested on the slender shoulders of the former Florida Gator.
The ball sailed through the uprights and gave the Bears their first win of the season by a score 16-14. The team rushed their kicker to celebrate their momentous win, but it’s likely they also celebrated what their fans at home thought:
The Bears have their kicker. “You take that (personality), and you see what he does and they talk about the swag that he has and everything,” Nagy said of Piñeiro as a player. “That’s a little different for a kicker. But it’s good because that’s confidence.
“We’re on the plane last night and I’m just talking to him and he’s just, again, ‘Thank you for these opportunities,’ Nagy recalled during his Monday press conference. “And it’s just simple things like that that go along ways. And the players love him and he’s got that swag, that’s who we are as a team.”
Eddy P, you know what I’m saying, birthday man. And he came out and nailed that motherf—–-Khalil Mack
Piñeiro’s heroics will be enough to distract from many of the same issues that haunted Trubisky last week, such as not pushing the ball vertically and missing Taylor Gabriel when he finally heaved a pass downfield to him in single coverage. The quarterback went 16/27 for 120 yards and no touchdowns, but head coach Matt Nagy seemed to learn from the problems he ran into last week.
This included a heavier reliance on third-round running back David Montgomery, a point of criticism for Nagy after the rookie from Iowa State touched the ball seven times against Green Bay. Montgomery carried the ball 18 times for 62 yards and a touchdown at the goal line, and the team as a whole ran the ball 27 times after doing so only 15 times the week prior.
“I think if you look at it, I don’t know the exact numbers, but we were pretty balanced run and pass,” Nagy said. “And when you do that it can be challenging to a defensive coordinator.”
The Bears defense continued their high-level of play, allowing 372 total yards and only 14 points. Eddie Jackson, after a fairly pedestrian Week One, flew around for two passes defensed and ten tackles, including two massive third-down stops in the open field to stop Denver shy of the sticks. Khalil Mack also recorded his first sack of the year.
The Bears’ offense has yet to get on the right path, and even with an explosive 46-yard rush by Cordarrelle Patterson, they produced only 273 total yards. Nagy addressed the lack of explosive plays and how those can be intoxicating for an offense, and eventually put a unit in a groove.
“For me, there’s a little bit of rhythm to it… Like the one yesterday with Cordarrelle. You could sense it after that play, you could really feel that vibe on the sideline, guys running off, like there was a rhythm to ‘Okay, next play he’s in. We’re going with this, we’re going to keep our foot on the pedal.’ And I feel like in the last two games we’re probably lacking those explosive plays.
“So as a play-caller it’s 1st & 10, and now it’s 2nd & whatever, and now it’s 3rd & whatever, and now it’s 1st & 10, and now it’s 2nd & whatever, and now it’s 3rd & whatever. Versus, it’s 1st & 10, now it’s 1st & 10, now it’s 1st & 10. There’s a rhythm involved there.”
Green Bay and Denver are strong defensive teams, and the Bears will have an opportunity on Monday night to get back on track against a beleaguered Washington Redskins defense. For now, though, the Bears can rest easy with the knowledge that a guy who can make the big kicks is in their building.
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