Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to get rid of a legend.
The Bears once decided that Kevin Butler was done and replaced him in 1996 with Carlos Huerta, who’d kicked for coach Dave Wannstedt while the latter was on the University of Miami staff. Huerta missed three of seven field goals over his first three games, including two kicks inside 40 yards. Huerta was gone after missing a tie-breaking kick from 44 yards in the fourth quarter of a loss to Minnesota.
Connor Barth was signed after Robbie Gould lost the confidence of the coaching staff, with missed kicks last season and missed extra points this preseason. He has converted just three of his eight Bears field-goal attempts (62.5 percent), confronting the Bears with a crisis that is growing in magnitude.
“Connor will be the first to tell you that we want to make all of them,” coach John Fox said. “Whether they’re extra points or field goals, they just count different but similar kicks. He knows he needs to make kicks, and we’ve got to go about doing better at that moving forward.”
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Last season the Bears had 11 of their last 13 games decided by less than a touchdown, eight by a field goal or less, including the overtime loss to San Francisco that went to overtime only because of a missed field goal.
The outcomes of 2016 initially made a field goal here or there seem largely irrelevant. The losses in the first three games were by nine, 15 and 14 points.
But the last two games — a three-point win over Detroit, a six-point loss at Indianapolis — brought the kicking of Barth under a harsh spotlight glare. Two of his three misses can be classed as extremely significant: one that left the Lions in position to tie the Bears had they recovered an onside kick, the other that left the Bears six points behind the Colts and needing a touchdown on a fourth-and-8 from the Indianapolis 28 rather than attempting a tying field goal from 45 yards.
“There is no common thread,” special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers said. “The first one he that missed (31 yards vs. Philadelphia), he just missed it. There isn’t one thing you can point to and say 'there it is.' The second one he actually kicked the ground (at Indianapolis). This last one, it was a 54-yarder — they trucked him. So we had a chance to come back and repeat that, and he missed a foot to the left.
“But if it doesn’t go through the uprights, it doesn’t count. That was the only thing common between the three kicks.”