Hub Arkush: Bears and Eagles deliver wild-card thriller
The impossible happened at Soldier Field Sunday night, a moment that will live on for as long as Chicago Bears football is played, leaving 62,462 fans in stunned silence at their seats in the stadium and millions of Bears fans incapable of forming words other than . . . NO!
All week long, the question around town was, what if it comes down to Cody Parkey? And sure enough, with 10 seconds on the clock and a 43-yard field goal needed to win the game, Parkey hit it true and the kick was good, but Eagles coach Doug Pederson got a time out as the ball was snapped and Parkey had to try it again.
On his second attempt, Parkey not only hit the upright for the sixth time this season — a record as unlikely to be broken as Brett Favre’s 297 consecutive regular-season starts, 321 including playoffs — after hitting the upright, the ball dropped and hit the crossbar, and with a 50-50 chance of bouncing forward for the win or backwards for the loss, the ball bounced back on the field for a 16-15 Eagles victory.
It was a game the Bears not only could have won, it was one they should have won.
I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like to be a Bear and try and get some sleep the next few nights, and quite frankly, I can’t fathom what it will be like to be Parkey for the rest of his life.
But to allow that finish to diminish how much the Bears and their coaching staff accomplished this year would be a huge mistake. They are a football team whose arrow is definitely pointing up, and how they react to this loss and come back next year will be a story we’re all anxious to follow once the pain of this loss wears off.
The first half, in a very strange way, was everything we expected and almost not at all what should have happened.
The two biggest questions coming into the game were could the Philadelphia Eagles offense, resurgent behind miracle worker Nick Foles, handle the Bears’ No. 1-ranked defense, and was the Bears’ computer lab, at times seemingly “Madlibs” offense under rookie head coach Matt Nagy and second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky ready for prime time.
The answers were no and no, leaving the Bears with a 6-3 lead after 30 minutes that they might or might not have deserved.
Foles was only 10-of-16 for 143 yards with 0 TDs, 2 INTs, one key third-down sack absorbed early from Leonard Floyd and a 51.8 rating.
Very un-Superman-like, although one of the picks was a great play from Roquan Smith that was completely on running back Wendell Smallwood, who should have had a catch but allowed Smith to rip the ball out.
Mitch Trubisky was 13-of-23 for 105 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 0 sacks and a 63.1 rating, but he should have been picked twice and was saved only by the bad hands of Avonte Maddox and Tre Sullivan.
It appeared the Bears’ playoff run might be over early with 10:19 to play in the second period when Trubisky pulled up gimpy scrambling out of bounds four yards short of the first down at the 18-yard line, setting up Cody Parkey’s 36-yard field goal to tie the game at three.
And if you want to be honest, while Trubisky came back without missing a play and ended up throwing for over 300 yards, he never left the pocket the rest of the day, and taking that element out of the Bears offense could be the biggest reason that they lost the football game.
The second half was cleaner, and both sides had some special moments leaving us with a game that really both sides deserved to win and both sides deserved to lose.
The Bears should be better next year and a threat in the playoffs for the foreseeable future, but as Walter Payton so famously once said, “Tomorrow isn’t promised to anybody.”
For now, all Bears fans have is an instant classic of an NFL game, a long week or two ahead and the mind-numbing pain of what it’s like to have come out on the short end.