Excitement. Disbelief. Euphoria.
Chicago Bears fans felt it all in the last three minutes of Chicago’s first win of 2019. What felt like another win slipping out of the Bears’ hands, quickly changed into an unforgettable victory for the Bears, the city, and a legend in the making that is Eddy Piñeiro.
Chicago’s offensive gameplan was lightyears better than Week 1 against Green Bay. The defense bent but did not break, and special teams was dominant. For the Bears’ franchise, that’s typically been the formula to success.
Starting with the offense, it was improved in terms of a game script and balancing the run game to go along with the pass game. After Chicago ran just 12 designed run plays last week, the Bears rushed 29 times for 153 yards and a touchdown for over five yards per carry.
Granted, nearly a third of that came on a 46-yard sweep to hybrid Cordarrelle Patterson, but the commitment to the run was an improvement, and in fact, necessary.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky still struggled, finishing just 16-of-27 for 120 yards and no touchdowns for the second week in a row. He missed Taylor Gabriel wide open on the far sideline with about six minutes left in the second quarter on a bad overthrow.
Trubisky also overthrew running back David Montgomery deep on a third down on the same sideline to his left, and nearly threw a touchdown to the other team when he forced a screen pass to Montgomery early in the fourth quarter with three Broncos within a foot of the young running back.
However, it was still an improvement from the Packers game to open the season.
Head coach Matt Nagy did a nice job of easing Trubisky into the game with a series of screens, check-downs and easy outs to players like Tarik Cohen and Taylor Gabriel, and Trubisky was more accurate on those, for the most part.
Yet despite the struggles, Trubisky did enough to put the Chicago Bears in position to win with the game on the line and Chicago staring down 0-2 to start the highly anticipated 2019 season.
On fourth-and-15 from his own 40-yard line with just nine seconds left, Trubisky calmly avoided pressure, stepped up in the pocket, and with little to no faith left in the team to come back, the third-year signal caller delivered a dime to Allen Robinson, who made the catch, and had the quick reaction to go down, and set up Piñeiro for the win.
Offensively, under 300 yards and just one touchdown will almost never be enough to win in today’s NFL. But on Sunday, against Joe Flacco, Vic Fangio and the Denver Broncos, it was just enough to get the job done and avoid the 0-2 start.
On defense, these Chicago Bears, again, were the unit that gave the team a chance to win. Yes, they were tired and gave up the late touchdown, but only 14 points allowed and just one touchdown a game should always be enough for your team to win. Always.
It was not quite the dominant performance that the Monsters of the Midway put up in Week 1, but it was close, as the defense was fast, and for the most part, bent but did not break.
Roquan Smith was everywhere with 13 tackles, and Eddie Jackson made 10 tackles, including a huge one on an early third down to force a punt. Khalil Mack got a sack and drew several holding calls against left tackle Garrett Bolles, which was big in the battle for field position, and Nick Williams added a sack.
However, the biggest player on defense was Kyle Fuller, who finished with six tackles and an interception on a tough catch with the Broncos near the goal line, creating Chicago’s first turnover of the season.
But, the best unit for Chicago on Sunday was truly the special teams unit.
Let it not be lost that veteran punter Pat O’Donnell punted five times for 287 yards, including a very impressive 75-yard boot.
Of course, the hero, the savior, the man whose kicking brought the city of Chicago to its feet, was undrafted second-year man Eddy Piñeiro.
If you follow the Bears, or really football at all, you know how much of an issue kicking was for the uber-talented 2018 Chicago Bears team.
It not only cost them in the obvious playoff loss with the infamous “double-doink,” but also in the regular season against teams like Miami.
Which, quite frankly, would have allowed the Bears to not even have to play in the first weekend of the playoffs, and from then on … who knows?
But, alas, that was last season, and this is the story of 2019.
Piñeiro, a high school soccer star that left the University of Florida only to go undrafted in 2018, won the much talked about Bears’ kicking competition over the Summer, and won over fans and teammates’ hearts by making a concerted effort to actually practice kicks at Soldier Field, something the previous kicker would not deign to even think about doing.
With the game on the line, Piñeiro relished the pressure, calmly stepping up and drilling a 53-yard field goal to give Chicago the 16-14 win over Denver on Sunday.
From a football perspective, it was clutch.
And from Chicago’s perspective, it was so much more. More than just a Week 2 game-winner. More than just an impressive feat from an unheralded 24-year-old on his birthday weekend.
No, this kick gave the Chicago Bears and their fans hope.
And more importantly, this magic trick from Mr. Eddy Piñeiro made the nightmares and memories of 2018 disappear, almost as quickly as the previous kicker jumping on the Today Show after a heartbreaking loss. Poof, magic.
There is still a lot to clean up for a team with Super Bowl aspirations, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
But for now, the Bears have both a win in 2019, and a kicker that truly has captured the hearts and the faith of its dedicated fans.
It may just be for a day, it may just be for a week. But what Eddy Piñeiro did on Sunday, was simply nothing short of magic.