Sometimes the kick just doesn’t go through the uprights.
But that’s likely not going to be a satisfying conclusion for seething Bears fans.
Connor Barth’s latest bout of inaccuracy was in too high-leverage a moment for anyone to excuse, the Bears’ kicker pushing a game-tying field-goal try wide, wide right in the waning seconds of Sunday’s 27-24 loss to the visiting Detroit Lions.
The miss stung, no doubt about it, especially after Mitch Trubisky led the offense down the field on an impressive two-minute drill that featured the rookie quarterback converting a fourth and 13 with a weaving scramble that is sure to be on No. 10’s highlight reel for years to come. With the youngster putting his team in position to advance to overtime, it was up to the veteran leg — and the veteran leg missed. Bears lose.
Barth, to his credit, had the right attitude after the game, explaining that sometimes you just don’t make the kick. Not everyone can be Adam Vinatieri, right?
“I think I hit the ground a little bit and didn’t make good contact. Tough one,” Barth said. “You never want to miss. I’ve been a positive guy. This one kick’s not going to define me.
“It’s a team game. Everyone makes mistakes. Of course I want that one back, but at the end of the day, it happened. You move on. I’ll take it, it’s on me.”
But here’s the thing. This is far from the first time this has happened.
In his second season with the Bears, Barth has missed 10 field-goal tries in 26 games. He’s 11-for-16 so far in 2017 after going 18-for-23 a year ago.
Add to that the way in which Barth got the job in the first place — benefitting from the ouster of longtime kicker Robbie Gould — and a large number of fans have always seemed ready to run Barth out of town on a rail.
It’s important to note to those sharpening their pitchforks, however, that Gould matched a career worst with six missed kicks in 2015, his last year with the Bears. Since leaving the Bears, Gould has made 29 of his 31 field-goal attempts with the New York Giants (2016) and San Francisco 49ers (2017).
But fans pining for a return to those Gould-en days aren’t the only ones who have put the heat on Barth in recent weeks. Andy Phillips, a kicker the Bears had in training camp, sent out a eye-popping tweet after Barth missed a field-goal try in last month’s loss to the New Orleans Saints.
My leg is still warm folks...— Andy Phillips (@AndyDPhillips) October 29, 2017
So now more than ever — with Barth’s his field-goal percentage dropping lower thanks to a critical missed kick — the question looms: Is this it for Barth in a Bears uniform?
Head coach John Fox didn’t exactly give a ringing endorsement of his kicker following Sunday’s defeat.
“It’s like everything. We are a production-based business. That’s what we get paid to do, whether it is winning games as a head coach or whether it’s making kicks as a kicker. We will evaluate it,” Fox said. “Like I said, every time we go out there, we will do everything we can to put the best team we can out there.”
Of course, it’s easy to rush to judgments when an athlete screws up with the game on the line. The situation magnifies the mistake, whether it be a closer blowing a save, a free-throw shooter coming up empty at the foul line or a kicker missing a potential game-tying field goal with eight seconds left on the clock.
But for Barth, the more worrying part of this whole thing is the trend. Ten missed kicks in 26 games.
Missing might be part of the job, and fans should understand that. But miss a lot, and there might be no more job at all.
“That’s just the way it is. I signed up for this,” Barth said. “You’re going to make some, going to miss some. That’s the way it goes.”