Cody Parkey took responsibility for one of the worst, most gutting losses in Bears history, saying in the locker room at Soldier Field following a 16-15 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday that he feels “terrible” and “I 100 percent take that loss on me.”
But after a throng of media dispersed around the beleaguered kicker’s locker, Parkey’s teammates went to bat for him. When asked what his message would be to people sending Parkey death threats, or vitriolic tweets or Instagram comments filled with pure anger and slurs, Bears left tackle Charles Leno Jr. had this to say.
“What would my message be? F*** you,” Leno said. “You’re not in this position. You don’t know how hard this s*** is. Like, that’s all it is. That’s all it is.”
The Bears’ best season in years ended with a doink, first off the left upright in the north end zone and then, bizarrely, off the crossbar. Maybe the ball was tipped (https://www.nbcsports.com/chicago/bears/eagles-tipped-cody-parkeys-field-goal-not-straight-miss), but it doesn’t matter. This was a team that had legitimate Super Bowl aspirations, but couldn’t vanquish the defending Super Bowl champions. And the feeling was that the game never should’ve came down to Parkey making or missing a 43-yard field goal with five seconds left.
“One person didn’t lose this game,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “We lost this game together.”
Center Cody Whitehair echoed that sentiment.
“I just didn’t want (Parkey) to think it’s his fault,” Whitehair said. “It never comes down to one guy or one play. Collectively we all could’ve been a little bit better.”
That much is true: The Bears did not save their best game of the season for the playoffs. Mitch Trubisky struggled to move the ball against the Eagles’ defense until the fourth quarter. The league’s best defense couldn’t make a stop when given the lead, allowing Nick Foles to work his magic and score a go-ahead touchdown with under a minute left. A few players had standout games — like Allen Robinson and Akiem Hicks — but in a number of ways, the Bears were out-coached and out-played on Sunday.
And yet, they still had a chance to survive with the kind of win that could spark a deep run into the playoffs, maybe even the Super Bowl. All Parkey had to do was hit the kick Ryan Pace envisioned he would when he signed him to a four-year, $15 million deal with $9 million guaranteed back in March.
“That’s one of the worst feelings in the world, to let your team down,” Parkey said. “I feel terrible. I’m going to continue to put things in perspective, continue to put my best foot forward and sleep at night knowing I did everything in my power to go and make that kick and for whatever reason it hit the crossbar and the upright, and I still couldn’t do it. So, yeah. I feel terrible.”
Leno was one of the first players to dash over to Parkey after he missed the kick, a move indicative of the kind of team unity fostered and possessed by the Bears this year.
“You put a lot of pressure on you, of course his job is go out there and make his field goal and do his job,” Leno said. “But at the end of the day, he is a human being. And I respect him as a person, as a man and I just wanted to let him know — I mean, the story is not written yet. You know what I mean? We don’t know when it’s going to come, but you’re going to make a play for us, you’re going to make a kick for us that’s going to be huge. So keep your head up, stay strong and we can say we lost on this one play, but we could’ve won on many other plays. I was just letting him know that.”
The harsh reality is Parkey may not get that chance, nor did he do enough in 2018 to earn it. His story in Chicago could very well have ended with that kick Sunday night.
One of the most glaring weaknesses for the 2018 Bears was Parkey’s inconsistency, which led him to connect on only 23 of 30 field goals in the regular season (the third-worst rate among qualified kickers) and miss three PATs, too, all of which doinked off an upright. Had Parkey hit a 53-yard kick in overtime in Miami in Week 6, the Bears wouldn’t have even been playing Sunday, instead watching wild card weekend from home while in possession of a first-round bye.
That will leave Pace with a decision to make in an offseason that came far quicker than anyone in Chicago would’ve hoped. The Bears would lose cap space — $1.125 million, per Spotrac — if they release Parkey before June 1, and wouldn’t save anything against the 2019 cap if he’s released after June 1.
So it’s unlikely the Bears will jettison Parkey anytime soon. But Pace and this team has to fix the kicking woes that’ve followed it since Robbie Gould was cut before the 2016 season (Gould, ironically, was in attendance at Soldier Field on Sunday — and he’ll also be a free agent).
Otherwise, the Bears risk having another spectacular season cut short in gutting, brutal way possible.
“I thought I hit a good ball and unfortunately I didn’t make it,” Parkey said. “I feel terrible.”