After the finest season from the Bears since 2010, it ends at the hands of the goal post, fruitlessly watching on as Cody Parkey doink his eighth missed field goal of the year to
Despite a free practice kick which he hit pre-icing, a perfect game kicking up to that point, and being well in his kicking range, the miss almost seemed predisposed with Parkey’s routine clangers at Solider Field, though a far more painful one nonetheless.
But honestly, the blame can’t fall entirely on Parkey’s shoulders, since he wouldn’t have won the game by making it but only negate a multitude of coaching blunders in order to win the game. This game will undoubtedly live on in infamy, clinging to Bears fans’ hearts a la Steve Bartman, and Parkey will probably never live this down, which unfortunately will never allow Matt Nagy and Vic Fangio to receive the sizable chunk of the blame they deserve.
Obviously, mistakes happen and therefore can’t matter in the grand scheme of a football game. However, the Bears had far too many preventable mistakes to just be brushed off as routine or forgivable. From wholeheartedly abandoning the rushing attack to only allowing Tarik Cohen to return kicks when in a desperate situation, the consistent opening-a-door for the Eagles with sometimes seemingly brain-dead coaching decisions doomed this game, not a singular moment. Parkey even scored nine of the fifteen of the Bears points, doing most of the heavy offensive lifting.
Activating All-Pro safety Eddie Jackson only to let him wither on the sidelines also comes off as slightly confusing. Though probably a momentum move, it never seemed to have the lasting effect actually letting him off the chain could’ve had. Late in the game, Bears desperately needed a play on the defense and Jackson has built a reputation for those kinds of moments.
Nagy, as a head coach in general, still has a lot to learn and should be studying every detail of this game for the rest of his career. Coming from under Andy Reid’s wing, a coach notorious for playoff collapses, these misfires in the playoffs feels like it will be a curse for him, at least until the Bears ultimately get over this playoff hump. And backpedaling to his only other playoff experience as a play caller, he miserably blew a 21-3 lead to the Titans only a season ago, also eerily a one-point loss in the Wild Card round.
This also extends to the usually untouchable Fangio. His head coaching bids took a bit of a hit after his glaring failure to rev up Khalil Mack and then seemingly refusing to adjust to the short over-the-middle check-downs the Eagles lived off. Granting the Eagles a literal power play in the red zone leading to their first touchdown simply can’t be excused, especially considering the ramifications.
Overall, as a starting lineup, the players themselves had plenty of strong performances to be proud of. Allen Robinson returned to his Pro Bowl form thanks to some spectacular passes from a budding Trubisky, who put together one of his finest games as a pro. Roquan Smith made some highlight-worthy plays in coverage while Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman made running the ball an impossibility for the Eagles. Though a few blown coverages here and there, the Eagles’ big plays stem from the over-blitzing of the linebackers, leaving corners and safeties on an island and gaping holes in the primarily zone defense, which all circles back to Fangio.
However, even in the crushing finale, labeling this season as a failure only misses how bright the future will be for the Bears. Though Super Bowl may have been the dream, the Bears underestimated playoff experience and really just had the misfortune of matching up with the Hollywood storybook of Nick Foles’ redemption tour.
Yeah, this game probably should have ended in a win but allowing for one play and a few admittedly costly mistakes define this Bears season overlooks both the positives to be taken and incredible path this team has set themselves on. Previously seen as only an 8-8 caliber team in the preseason, the Bears heavily exceeded expectations by even making the playoffs at all.
Also having a total stranglehold of the NFC North that won’t be ending soon, the glory days of the Bears look to be only beginning. The Packers should tumble into rebuilding territory but remain stuck with a quarterback that will make the record just passable enough to keep them out of the top ten in the draft. The Lions clearly won’t be even a playoff contender and the Vikings just look rudderless with Kirk Cousins, not being able to pull off big wins when they need it most. Because of this, the Bears will be playoff regulars for a good long while.
With a core built to last until at least 2021 when contracts of the heavy hitters start to expire and their now-certified franchise quarterback signed until 2022, this team has at least two or three more seasons of serious contention. The Bears don’t have a single starter on either side of the ball over the age of thirty, highlighting the unimaginable room to grow in the coming years. At their peak, the Bears looked near unstoppable at points, and not just on defense. Spreading the field tore the Eagles to shreds on a couple of drives and with another offseason of development will put Trubisky in the talk of the elite in the NFC quarterback realm.
Throw in Nagy’s relative youth as a head coach and if the Bears achieve their full potential, they will be Super Bowl champions one way or another. The Bears didn’t design this season to be a Super Bowl run. If it didn’t end at the hands of the Eagles, it would have against the Rams. Or against the Saints. Though no guarantees (I mean, who knows, maybe the Bears could’ve rattled off a string of upsets but seeing as they couldn’t even beat Philadelphia, it is hard to imagine), this experience of the playoffs will prove invaluable, no matter how brief.
Though dreamy and idealistic, the Bears might have the brightest future of any team in the league. The youth combined with the success conveys just how far the Bears could with this current squad. The league has yet to see the Bears fullest potential realized and that promises something pretty special. This loss stings and it should. Being this close to winning only to end in rip-your-heart fashion after an already frustrating string of coaching errors won’t go down easy, if at all. The sports world will probably never forget Parkey, much like a Blair Walsh or a Scott Norwood.
The Bears will be back. It will be a long offseason but they will be back. After a season of this caliber, the Bears have more to celebrate than condemn. And for what it’s worth, Chicago has something they haven’t for years-hope in the Bears.