INDIANAPOLIS — Eddy Pineiro had been begging for a shot at a long field goal in a preseason game. Midway through the third quarter of the Bears’ game Saturday against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium, he finally got his wish.
And Pineiro, in nailing a 58-yard field goal, gave the Bears’ beleaguered kicking competition one of its first overwhelmingly positive, encouraging moments.
“I wanted that 58-yarder bad,” Pineiro grinned, “and thank God it worked out for me.”
Pineiro was mobbed by his teammates after making that kick, with cornerback Prince Amukamara verbalizing a growing thought around Halas Hall.
“I feel like he’s one of the quote-un-quote swaggiest kickers I’ve ever seen,” Amukamara said.
Pineiro’s mental edge has been noticeable since he arrived from the Oakland Raiders in May, but now that he’s going on a full week of being the Bears’ only kicker, perhaps he’s able to let that swagger fly a little more.
This is Pineiro’s chance to earn the job he thought he would’ve won in Oakland last year — before he got hurt — and whatever confidence boost he gained over the last week looked like it paid off on Saturday night.
“It was a good day for him and we just want to continue for him to get that confidence, keep going more and more, show that we trust in him and keep rolling,” coach Matt Nagy said. “… I think you could see a little more confidence in him knowing that every rep is his and he knows he’s going to get every rep. There’s no questioning, when am I kicking in the game, in practice, etc.”
Nagy and Pineiro had a chat earlier in the week, with Nagy’s goal to make sure Pineiro didn’t feel like his job would be on the line every time he kicked. Pineiro said Nagy made him feel like his coach and team had his back — this after Pineiro admitted, on the day the team cut Elliott Fry, that he felt like he was on “thin ice.”
Pineiro wouldn’t have been wrong for feeling that given the preseason workload he had previously, though.
Before Saturday’s 58-yard bomb, the majority of Pineiro’s preseason field goal attempts were chip shots. As in: Three of his five were from 30 or fewer yards, including a 21-yarder in the first half of Saturday’s game. His only other made field goal was from 41 yards, while he missed from 48 in the Bears’ preseason opener.
While coach Nagy has said all he cares about is production — and not how long the kicks are — those sub-30-yard kicks don’t tell us much about a kicker. Making them is the bare minimum (missing one, on the other hand, is a waive-able offense).
Pineiro still has one more game to prove himself — which, critically, takes place at Soldier Field. One long kick in downtown Indianapolis does not mean the Bears’ woes at that position are solved.
It does, however, look good in light of Kaare Vedvik missing two field goals for the Minnesota Vikings (after they dealt a fifth-round pick for him) and throwing their kicking woes into a rough place:
Mike Zimmer at a loss for explanation on where #Vikings stand with specialists. “Ever since (Vedvik) got here, Wile has punted well and Bailey has made kicks. Then he misses field goals today.” Calls concern level “high” with Vedvik right now.— Andrew Krammer (@Andrew_Krammer) August 24, 2019
Zimmer on what the Vikings do next w/ their kicking situation: "It's a good question. I honestly don't know. Since we brought Vedvik in Wile's been punting good and Bailey's been kicking good. Then Vedvik goes in there and misses field goals, so I'm at a loss on that."— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) August 24, 2019
The Vikings hoped Kaare Vedvik would make their decision at kicker/punter easy. But that hasn't happened. Now what does Mike Zimmer need to see to make a decision?— Chad Graff (@ChadGraff) August 24, 2019
"It's a good question," Zimmer said. "I honestly don't know."
Instead, Pineiro can confidently head into his final preseason game with the Bears thinking it may not be his last in the team’s uniform.
“I feel part of the team,” Pineiro said. “I feel I’m gaining the coaches’ confidence, the players’ confidence.”