The Bears reached the playoffs for the first time in eight years and generated hope for the future. But their magical and resurgent season came to a heartbreaking end Sunday.
Cody Parkey's 43-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright and then the crossbar before tumbling back onto the field play with :05 remaining, enabling the Eagles to escape with a 16-15 victory in an NFC wild-card playoff game at Soldier Field. It appeared that the kick deflected off the fingertip of Eagles defensive tackle Treyvon Hester.
It was an ending that no one would believe if it were written in a movie script, given that it was the sixth time this season that Parkey missed a kick by hitting an upright.
It was a crushing way to finish a memorable season, one in which the Bears won their first NFC North title since 2010 with a 12-4 record—and brought fun back to football in Chicago with a stifling defense, exciting new offense and a slew of trick plays.
"It's a difficult one to swallow," said coach Matt Nagy. "I'm just proud of our guys for battling all year long. They battled their tails off again to the very end. It stings to lose. There's inevitably only one team in the end that gets that trophy, so you've got to feel it. I want them to feel it I want our coaches to feel it. And they will do that."
Parkey's missed kick came after the Eagles had taken a 16-15 lead on Nick Foles' 2-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate on fourth-and-goal with :56 left in the game. The Bears defense had stopped the Eagles on three plays from the 2 before the go-ahead TD.
After Tarik Cohen returned the ensuing kickoff 35 yards to his own 42, Mitchell Trubisky completed passes of 25 and eight yards to Allen Robinson II to put the Bears in position to win the game from the Eagles' 25 with :10 to play.
"We just battled all night long," Trubisky said. "I'm proud of the way the guys stuck together, and it's been a privilege just to be a part of this family and play with these guys. It just didn't go our way at the end."
As Parkey lined up for the 43-yard attempt, the Eagles called a timeout to ice him. The ball was still snapped so he could get what amounted to a practice kick and Parkey split the uprights. Unfortunately for the Bears, he missed the one that counted.
"You can't make this up," Parkey said. "I feel terrible. I let the team down. It's on me. I have to own it. I have to be a man. Unfortunately, that's the way it went today.
"That's one of the worse feelings in the world to let your team down, so I feel terrible. I'm going to continue to put things in perspective, continue to put my best foot forward and sleep at night knowing that I did everything in my power this week to make that kick. For whatever reason, it hit the crossbar and the upright."
In a seesaw game that featured three lead changes, the Bears trailed 3-0 after the first quarter, led 6-3 at halftime and were down 10-6 after three periods.
The Chicago offense mustered only three field goals on its first eight possessions extending into the fourth quarter, settling for Parkey kicks of 36, 29 and 34 yards on three red-zone drives.
The Bears finally produced their first and only touchdown of the game on Trubisky's 22-yard pass to Robinson down the right sideline with 9:04 left in the fourth quarter. Taylor Gabriel was stopped short of the goal line on the subsequent two-point conversion attempt, but the Bears led 15-10.
The six-play, 80-yard drive was highlighted by Trubisky passes of 34 yards to Joshua Bellamy and 19 yards to Gabriel on third-and-11 from the Chicago 19.
The Bears defense had played well up until that point, permitting 10 points but also intercepting two Foles passes and forcing three three-and-outs.
Foles, however, followed by engineering the game-winning 12-play, 60-yard drive by completing 6 of 10 passes for 59 yards to five different receivers.
"That's the great thing about football; the games are roller coasters, the seasons are roller coasters," said cornerback Prince Amukamara. "Throughout this game, the momentum changed so many times. There were a lot of big plays. Just how our season was going, it seemed like it was meant for us. It obviously wasn't."