The Bears will head into their first playoff game in eight years with, statistically, one of the least successful kickers in the NFL in 2018. Cody Parkey made 23 of 30 kicks in the regular season, good for a percentage of 76.7 that ranks 30th out of the 32 place-kickers with at least 15 field goals attempts.
Parkey, too, missed three of his 45 PATs, ranking 25th with his percentage there. So around bars and living rooms in the Chicago area on Sunday, if the Bears line up for a critical kick, there will be plenty of fans holding their breath.
The Bears, though, remain confident in Parkey, who was signed to a four-year deal with $9 million guaranteed back in March.
“I’m never gonna flinch on him,” special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said. “He’s our guy. I have a lot of confidence in him just because I know what he does, I know how he plays. … I know the regular season wasn’t as consistent as what he wanted. I’ve seen him in other years get to that bar. So I know it’s there. We just gotta help him get there, and I think he will.”
Parkey, indeed, has done it before: He made 32 of his 36 kicks (89 percent) and all of his extra points with the Philadelphia Eagles as a rookie in 2014, a season which earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl. He made 91 percent of his field goal attempts with the Miami Dolphins a year ago. Even with his inconsistent 2018, he’s still made 84 percent of his field goal attempts and 96 percent of his PATs in his five-year career.
But Parkey missed a 53-yard game-winning kick against the Dolphins in Week 6, doinked four kicks off the Soldier Field uprights in Week 10 and missed a PAT last Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. Tabor, though, said Parkey’s even-keel demeanor has allowed him to move on from those missed kicks, and gives him confidence the 26-year-old can and will deliver in the playoffs.
“Oh, I think he’s great (mentally),” Tabor said. “I really do. He’s the same person — that’s why I have confidence in him. He’s the same guy, whether it’s a make or a miss. And sometimes I’ll say, an NFL kicker if you miss one, what do you do on the next one. NFL kickers aren’t — they’re not going to miss those consistently and like I say, the Detroit game seems like an anomaly to me, but his other misses that he’s had, he always comes back and I expect him to come back this week.”
Parkey has practiced at Soldier Field this week, too, with the field goal unit and Tabor heading downtown in the morning on Wednesday and Thursday.
Still, it’ll be interesting to see how coach Matt Nagy approaches Parkey’s inconsistency in a do-or-die game. Nagy went for two five times this year, all of which came after or during Parkey’s four-doing game and none of which in situations that necessarily called for it score-wise (the Bears did convert four of those five attempts, including Sunday’s “Lollipop” play against the Vikings).
Nagy hasn’t said much to Parkey this year, trusting his kicker to handle the ups and downs of the season and deliver when necessary. Whether or not Parkey does that in a playoff game could determine how long he sticks around Chicago.
“He’s a mature individual,” Nagy said. “And he understands. He wants it. If I’m not being hard on him at times, at practice at times or complimenting him at times, then I’m not doing my job. But I don’t overdo it either way. I don’t stay on top of him and just yell at him. And I don’t compliment him all the time. He knows that.”