INDIANAPOLIS – After waiving Elliott Fry last week, the Bears informed Eddy Pineiro that he would handle every kick in practice as well as the team’s final two preseason games.
To coach Matt Nagy, it was immediately clear that the move boosted Pineiro’s confidence and increased his comfort level.
“When we went out to practice, I think you could see a little more confidence in him knowing that he’s going to get every rep,” Nagy said. “There’s no question when [he] is kicking in the game, in practice, etc. It kind of goes back to the days in training camp when we were giving those kickers a full day; they knew they weren’t alternating, so I think it certainly helps.”
That definitely appeared to be the case Saturday night in Indianapolis as Pineiro made all five kicks he attempted—connecting on field goals of 21 and 58 yards and three extra points.
After the game, Pineiro acknowledged that winning his competition with Fry did boost his confidence, as did a recent pep talk from Nagy.
“He made me feel comfortable,” Pineiro said. “It was just like, ‘Stay positive. We are going to back you up, our team is going to back you up. Don’t let any of the media stuff get you. You’re in a good place right now.’”
Pineiro has now made five straight field-goal attempts after missing his first try from 48 yards in the preseason opener against the Panthers. Prior to Saturday night he had connected from 23, 41 and 27 yards.
Staying alert: Late in the third quarter, linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe made a heads-up play to give the Bears their first lead of Saturday night’s game.
It appeared that linebacker James Vaughters hit Phillip Walker just as the Colts quarterback was throwing downfield. The ball was propelled forward and most players on the field assumed it was an incomplete pass.
But Iyiegbuniwe scooped it up and ran into the end zone. Officials didn’t blow the play dead, and when replays showed that the ball had actually come loose before Walker’s arm came forward, Iyiegbuniwe was credited with a 22-yard touchdown return.
“It’s funny,” Nagy said. “We always talk about situational smart football. And so [Friday] we just showed a clip of two scenarios in the preseason where it happened where there was a ball on the ground—one where they went after it and one where they didn’t. We showed it [Friday] morning, so how ironic is that that you have a chance to see that happen and then to have it come to fruition?”
Stepping up: Running back Ryan Nall displayed his speed and power on one second-quarter possession. First, the second-year pro burst through the line and dashed 69 yards before getting dragged down at the Colts’ 21.
“The offensive line did a great job making a hole,” Nall said. “There was nothing but daylight. I just had to make a guy miss and try to get to the edge. Trying to make the last guy miss, I tried to stiff-arm him, but he ended up bringing me down. It was a great run; I just need to finish.”
It appeared that Nall had done just that a few plays later when he kept churning his legs, moving the pile for an apparent 4-yard touchdown run. But the score was negated by a holding penalty on rookie tight end Ian Bunting.
“I saw the goal line,” Nall said. “I had no intentions except to get in there. Unfortunately, it got called back. But I’m just going to keep pushing it no matter what and I’m going to keep trying my hardest.”
Filling in: With starters Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie sitting out and reserve Rashaad Coward unable to play due to an elbow injury, the Bears were already shorthanded at offensive tackle.
So when veteran T.J. Clemmings exited Saturday night’s game with a right leg injury, undrafted rookie guard Alex Bars was moved to left tackle.
“I thought he did a great job,” Nagy said. “I was happy for him. You never know what you’re going to get. But he does have experience playing at Notre Dame there at that position. You could see that come out, which is good.”