Back when the Bears traded for Eddy Pineiro on May 6 — following that nine-kicker rookie minicamp circus — his old kicking coach offered some analysis that now looks particularly prescient.
“He. Is. The. Man,” kicking coach Brandon Kornblue texted NBC Sports Chicago. “He has the mental edge. Not afraid of anything.
“I think he is perfect for this situation.”
Four months later, Pineiro drilled a game-winning 53-yard field goal against the Denver Broncos. He won the team’s kicking competition, then won a game. This is the outcome the Bears hoped they’d realize though all the 43-yard tries and Augusta silences and dealer’s choices in the spring and summer.
But beyond just making the kick, what stood out is how badly Pineiro wanted the ball on his foot to end the game.
“I was praying on the sidelines that I was able to get that moment,” Pineiro said. “I was like please, God, give me this opportunity, I want to get in this spotlight to make this happen for the team.”
Mental edge. Not afraid of anything. Perfect for the situation.
The stakes of Pineiro’s kick were massive — maybe not as dire as John Fox might’ve thought — given the discouraging track record of teams that begin a season 0-2. The moment was not too big for him, since it was the exact moment he wanted.
“I knew I was ready for it,” Pineiro said. “From all the things that I’ve been put through, the Augusta silence, the kickers getting cut left and right, I feel like I was ready for it.”
There’s something to be said for a kicker wanting to be in that moment. It’s easy to get the impression that’s the case with Pineiro; it would’ve been a lot harder to come to that conclusion with Cody Parkey a year ago, even before the double-doink. Parkey missed a game-winning field goal in Week 6 against the Miami Dolphins, then hit the upright four times against the Detroit Lions, and even a week before the playoff game booted a PAT off an upright against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Bears now know they can trust Pineiro in those kind of moments. Because the next time they need a game-winning kick, they’ll know their guy is not just confident he can do it. He wants the opportunity to have the ball on his foot with time expiring, and wants it badly.
“He definitely craves the pressure,” offensive lineman Kyle Long said. “And that's something that coach Nagy has talked about for a long time, craving pressure and being in those pressure situations. We’ve been there before, now how do we deliver?”
Pineiro delivered. And the Bears can count on him to deliver again.
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