When Bears tight end Ian Bunting was tackled at the Panthers’ 25-yard line with :03 left in the first half Thursday night, it meant only one thing.
Elliott Fry, who’s locked in a competition for the Bears’ kicking job with Eddy Pineiro, would have to attempt a field goal from 43 yards. In the north end zone at Soldier Field. After the opposing coach called A timeout to ice him.
If you’re reading this story you probably already know what happened when Cody Parkey was in the same situation in the final seconds of the Bears’ wild-card playoff loss to the Eagles. So there’s no need to go into detail.
“You could feel it,” said coach Matt Nagy. “You could sense it, from all the fans. My math is really good right now. I can figure out real quick how far a field-goal kick is from the spot of the ball, so I realized it was 43.”
So did Fry, who calmly split the uprights—eliciting a thunderous roar of approval from the 45,823 fans at Soldier Field. Fry made his only other kick of the night, an extra point following the Bears’ only touchdown.
Fry’s 43-yarder came one series after Pineiro had missed a 48-yard field-goal try wide left in the second quarter. Pineiro made his only other kick of the night, a 23-yard field goal, late in the game.
“We want these guys to make every single kick,” Nagy said. “We'll go through this thing and let them see what kind of production they show us. This was the big stage tonight for them; it's as big as we can get it before the season starts.”
Good and bad: Bunting had an up-and-down game, catching three passes for a game-high 77 yards while also being penalized twice for a false start and holding.
“Have a lot to clean up, but first game, I was happy I got a good opportunity and I had some fun,” Bunting said. “You can’t get too high, you can’t get too low. It certainly was not a perfect game. I made a fair amount of mistakes. I’ll learn from those and move forward.”
Bunting is an intriguing prospect, a 6-7, 255-pounder from Hinsdale who played at Cal last year as a graduate student after spending his previous four years at Michigan.
“He's a big kid,” Nagy said. “He's super smart. He's really smart. He has big hands. A lot of times when people have big hands, they're a natural catcher. He's a natural pass catcher.
“This is just a really good opportunity for him to see how much can he digest in this playbook, and when the plays come to him and he gets a chance to make a play, does he make it? He did a good job with that. He executed everything we asked him to do and it was productive for him.”
Sitting out: Bears players who were held out of Thursday night’s preseason opener included receivers Allen Robinson II, Taylor Gabriel, Cordarrelle Patterson and Riley Ridley; running back Tarik Cohen; guard Kyle Long; tight ends Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen; defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, outside linebackers Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd and Aaron Lynch; linebacker Danny Trevathan; cornerbacks Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara and Buster Skrine; and safety Eddie Jackson.
Cornerback Kevin Toliver II also did not play due to illness.