A position that has remained a major question mark for more than a year turned into an exclamation point for the Bears on an unforgettable Sunday afternoon in Denver.
Eddy Piñeiro, who won the team’s kicking job after a highly-publicized quest to find Cody Parkey’s replacement, capped a perfect 3-for-3 performance by drilling a 53-yard field goal as time expired to give the Bears a thrilling 16-14 win over the Broncos.
“It means everything,” Piñeiro said. “I’ve been working my butt off. All the stuff that I’ve been through, the ‘Augusta silence,’ the kickers getting cut left and right, all the crazy things going on. It was a pretty cool moment to have this opportunity.”
Trailing 14-13 after a Broncos touchdown and two-point conversion, the Bears took over at their own 25 with :31 remaining in the game. At that point, Piñeiro was kicking footballs into a net on the sideline hoping and praying that he’d get a chance to attempt a game-winning field goal.
“I was talking to [holder] Pat [O’Donnell] on the sideline. I’m like, ‘Man, I hope I get this shot,’” Piñeiro said. “I’ve been practicing my whole life for this and all the stuff that I’ve been through. I was praying, ‘God, give me this shot, give me this shot to win the game.’ Thank God it happened.”
It almost didn’t. After three straight incomplete passes and a too-many-men-on-the-field penalty, the Bears faced fourth-and-15 from their own 40 with just :09 remaining. That’s when quarterback Mitchell Trubisky delivered, stepping up in the pocket and completing a 25-yard pass to receiver Allen Robinson II over the middle to the Broncos’ 35 with only :01 to play.
Piñeiro trotted onto the field and proceeded to make the biggest kick of his life, turning what would have been a devastating defeat into an exhilarating victory that evened the Bears’ record at 1-1.
“This was an emotional kick,” Piñeiro said. “Just like I said, from the stuff that I’ve been through, the whole kicking situation: ‘Do we have a kicker? Do we not have a kicker?’ The media, everybody just piling in. It was an amazing moment.”
After making the game-winning kick, Piñeiro’s teammates rushed the field to celebrate with him.
“Everybody was just screaming,” Piñeiro said. “Slapping me and screaming. It was pretty cool.”
It’s easy to like someone who wins a game with one swing of his leg. But teammates have taken to Piñeiro since he was acquired by the Bears May 7 in a trade with the Raiders.
“His personality is infectious,” Nagy said. “We all know when you have somebody that’s just a good person, they smile all the time, they say thank you and please all the time, they’re very gracious, they’re very humble, that’s who he is as a person.
“And then as a player, you take that and you see what he does and they talk about the swag that he has and everything. That’s a little different for a kicker and it’s good because that’s confidence.”
Piñeiro also made field goals from 40 and 52 yards Sunday after converting his only attempt in the season opener from 38 yards. He was 8-of-9 in the preseason, hitting his final eight tries after missing his first attempt from 48 yards.
That means that Piñeiro has made 12 straight field goals with the Bears and 12-of-13 overall. He was 3-of-3 in his only preseason game with the Raiders last year and made his final 16 field goals at Florida. So Piñeiro has connected on 31 of his last 32 field-goal tries in games, college and pro, preseason and regular season.
No kick, of course, was bigger than Sunday’s 53-yarder. It was the Bears’ longest game-winning field goal since Paul Edinger made a 54-yarder in a 23-20 victory over the Lions in the 2000 season finale in Detroit.
“Games like this just absolutely multiply your confidence to another level,” Nagy said. “I like rooting for good people and he’s a good person. He fought through a lot to get to this point where he’s at right now. He listened to his coaches, and he trusted himself and he has his teammates who believed in him throughout this whole process.
“I always say good things happen to good people. Well, he’s good people and good things happened [Sunday]. He helped us win that game. I mean he had a 40-yarder, a 52-yarder and a 53-yarder to win the game. You can’t make that up.”
See the best photos - selected by Bears photographers - from Sunday's Week 2 win over the Broncos in Denver.