Monday, January 07, 2019

Doinks for the Memories: A Tough but Oddly Apt Way for a Great Chicago Bears Season to End

Well, if nothing else, the most famous word in Chicago today is an onomatopoeia:


Which, as coined by the legendary John Madden, describes the sound of a football hitting a goalpost, or the crossbar.

Cody Parkey's field goal attempt, which would've given the Chicago Bears a 18-16 victory in Sunday's NFL playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles, did both.

Double doink!

This after, rather famously, four doinks--2 on field goal attempts, 2 on extra point attempts--by Parkey in a game against the Detroit Lions on Veterans Day.

So, with the Eagles 16-15 win, the Cinderella storyline of Nick Foles continues on. Nationally.

Foles is a journeyman quarterback, who has been the Eagles' backup to Carson Wentz the past two seasons. When Wentz, a young star, was injured late in the 2017 season, Foles took over and--with astonishing efficiency & stats--led the Eagles to an NFL title, including a Super Bowl upset of the New England Patriots and the legendary Tom Brady.

After the first two games of 2018, Foles relinquished the starting role to Wentz, under whom the Eagles were sitting at 6-7, unlikely to make the playoffs. Then Wentz is hurt again, Foles steps in, wins three games, gets Philadelphia into the playoffs, and--with a clutch touchdown pass with a minute left Sunday--past the first round.

He seems like a nice guy, so good for him.

But as a lifelong Bears fan, I'm--um--disappointed.

Certainly, in the failure of Parkey, even if the ball was partially blocked, as has now been officially ruled.

He failed to get the job done--as he candidly admitted in a postgame interview--but while I may be pissed about the result, I don't hate him or wish him anything but well.

Maybe the Bears should have kept Robbie Gould a few years ago, maybe they should've signed someone other than Parkey or jettisoned him following the Lions loss and other misses, maybe Parkey shouldn't be back next season despite having signed a 3-year contract.

But anyone taking to social media and threatening the guy is a real piece of sh*t.

And don't tell me how much he gets paid; that's immaterial. He's a human being, he tried his best, it didn't go as hoped.

Sometimes doink happens. Repeatedly.

Much of what I like about these Bears is how much I like these Bears.

Leading into the game, I was as excited as I'd been about a Bears game since Super Bowl XLI in 2007--which they lost to the Indianapolis Colts.

Yes, the Bears made the playoffs in the 2011 season, and beat the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round before losing to the Green Bay in the conference championship. But though I certainly rooted for the Bears, I never could much stomach QB Jay Cutler, and hence wasn't as happy and hopeful as I was cheering for this year's team.

To remind, the Bears finished last in the NFC each of the last four years, the first 2 and part of the 3rd with Cutler. In 2017, still under dismal coach John Fox, the team went 5-11 and quarterback Mitch Trubisky--whom General Manager Ryan Pace had selected #2 overall in the NFL Draft after seemingly unnecessarily trading up--showed few flashes of stardom.

Pace hired an enthusiastic young coach, Matt Nagy, and stunningly traded for defensive superstar Khalil Mack just before the regular season started.

Still, with the jury still out on Trubisky in Year 2, I--though I can't now find the Facebook post--predicted the Bears to go 8-8, which most comments called an overreach.

In their first game, against the rival Packers, the Bears--with Mack looking dominant--seemed poised to pull off a great win before letting Aaron Rodgers pull another comeback out of his discount double-check.

And while they then won their next three games, they lost the following two in distressing fashion, and Trubisky was having some good games and some lousy ones.

But the defense continued to jell in to the league's best, and the Bears won 9 of their last 10 regular season games.

So a team I was hoping would go .500 wound up 12-4, losing those four games plus the playoff one by a total of 11 points.

Sometimes they looked truly dominant, like a Super Bowl title wasn't a fantasy, but at other times they clearly didn't. Though Trubisky had some great games, he continued to be up & down.

And Sunday's game against the Eagles felt similarly confusing. Going in I thought they should win handily, but neither team was great in the first half and the Bears were up just 6-3 at halftime.

The Eagles had a 10-6 lead at the end of the 3rd Quarter and another stalled Bears drive led to a Parkey field goal, making it 10-9 early in the 4th.

Trubisky seemed to break through with a solid drive culminating in a touchdown pass to Allen Robinson, which--with a failed 2-point conversion--gave the Bears a 15-10 lead with 9 minutes left.

The Bears held the Eagles at bay on the their next drive, but then gave the ball back on a 3-and-out possession, with a short punt giving the Eagles the ball at their own 40 yard line. (Let me say here that while running backs Jordan Howard and Tariq Cohen have been terrific at times, the Bears' seeming inability to sustain time-consuming, run-driven drives has been an apparent weakness--during the season and again yesterday.)

The vaunted Bears defense did its best, but allowed Foles to drive down the field, and ultimately throw a touchdown pass on 4th-and-2 from the 2 yard line.

With just 48 seconds, Trubisky did well to get Parkey into field goal range, and he actually made his first "game-winning" attempt--but after Eagles coach Doug Peterson had called time out to ice him.

Which seemingly worked.


So yes, missing the crucial field goal can be pinned on Parkey's--even if it was partially blocked--but there was plenty of blame to go around (and he had made all 3 of his previous FG attempts).

And as any sports fan knows, that's how it goes. 

It would've been a great win, but it was an exciting game all the way until the last second--much like the Cubs' marathon Wild-Card loss--and it's not like they destroyed the Eagles. Or even outplayed them.

And the season was all I could ask for. Short of a Super Bowl. 

Which doesn't seem an implausible possibility in years to come.

He's still got a way to go, but Trubisky's grown impressively in his 2 seasons, and should only get better. I like rooting for him, and all of these Bears.

For me, that matters as much as the end result. Almost.

And pitchers and catchers report in 5 weeks. 

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