Cody Parkey

Cody Parkey’s bounce-back game reveals something important about the 2018 Bears

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USA Today

Cody Parkey’s bounce-back game reveals something important about the 2018 Bears

 Cody Parkey, of course, noticed the two news helicopters hovering over Soldier Field Wednesday night. Maybe they added a little bit of pressure to his kicking practice session four days before he connected on all three of his field goal tries — including a game-clinching 48-yarder — in the Bears’ 25-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings. 
 
Or maybe the literal hovering over his every move didn’t affect him at all. 
 
“They just added a little extra wind for me,” Parkey quipped. 
 
Parkey’s confidence in himself didn’t waver after he missed four field goal attempts off an upright a week ago, even if the rest of Chicago might’s lost faith in their team’s kicker. While Matt Nagy framed his calling of a pair of two-point conversion attempts after the Bears’ two touchdowns Sunday as wanting to be aggressive (“we just felt like we had some good stuff down there in that area,” he said), perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence it came a week after his kicker missed two PATs. 
 
But Nagy’s confidence in Parkey was there when he called on him for that 48-yard field goal with a little under three minutes remaining in, at the time, an eight-point game. Had Parkey missed the kick, Minnesota would’ve taken over possession in optimal field position to drive downfield and tie the game. 
 
Instead, Parkey nailed the kick, and nearly the entire Bears’ sideline rushed onto the field to celebrate with him. 
 
“Parkey’s a dog, man,” outside linebacker Khalil Mack said. “Practice makes perfect. He’s a great kicker and I’m glad he got back to showing it.”
 
“You support your guys,” defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said. “There’s always going to be people out there that are hard on you that can never do what you do. I think that’s he’s handled it very well. Very respectful, very humble about it, and he came out tonight and he played one of his best games for us.”
 
“We all believed in him in the locker room,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky said. “There was never a doubt. That happens week to week in the NFL. But we just continue to come together closer as a team, support our guys, have each other's back. I'm happy for Cody. He was big time tonight. He definitely delivered for this team and put some points on the board when we needed them. They were crucial, and he did a heck of a job.”
 
And cornerback Prince Amukamara: “We knew that he had a tough time last week and was very hard on himself. For him to hit the first one and hit the last one, we knew how huge that was and he crushed it. He ended up breaking us down at the end right here. And that goes with what I've been saying all year, we have genuine love for each other and guys celebrate others' success."
 
That last point is important. The Bears have a certain positive spirit in their team, one instilled by Nagy that permeates every corner of Halas Hall. How often do you see so many players sprint off the sideline to celebrate with their kicker after he hits a field goal that isn’t a game-winner? 
 
“That was pretty cool,” Parkey said. “Obviously they saw me down last week and they picked me up. I think that’s just really special about this team and it shows how close we are.” 

Bears remain confident in Cody Parkey after nighttime kicking session at Soldier Field

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USA Today

Bears remain confident in Cody Parkey after nighttime kicking session at Soldier Field

Neither coach Matt Nagy or special teams coordinator Chris Tabor seemed particularly amused by multiple Chicago TV stations sending helicopters over Soldier Field for Cody Parkey’s nighttime kicking session there on Wednesday, but both said the returns were positive for the 26-year-old kicker.
 
While the coverage of Parkey may feel over-the-top at times, it can also be viewed as a signal of the Bears’ return to relevance here in Chicago. Had it been Connor Barth missing four kicks off the uprights in a game during 2017’s dour 5-11 season, news choppers wouldn’t have flown over Soldier Field to shoot film of him practicing that the Bears would ultimately request be taken off the airwaves and internet.
 
“I get it, from this standpoint,” Tabor said. “We’ve all been at home, ‘Oh, the kicker missed it!’ There’s not a lot of people out there that can kick the ball. There’s been kicking troubles all around the league, multiple teams, guys working out multiple guys. There’s not a plethora of players out there that can do that skill.
 
“I just think he stays the course. That’s his strength. The good news is we didn’t see anything really technically wrong. Let’s tweak the line. Let’s get a little bit more comfortable in our environment and then let your God-given ability take over.”
 
Tabor had a good idea of who the Bears were getting in Parkey when they signed him to a four-year, $15 million contract with $9 million guaranteed in March (that guaranteed money figure is the third-highest among NFL kickers). Back in 2016, when Tabor was the special teams coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, his team brought Parkey in one day before a Week 3 road game against the Miami Dolphins. Parkey missed three of six field goal attempts in that game, but came back a week later and drilled a 51-yard field goal against Washington that proved a lot about him to Tabor.
 
And it’s that prior knowledge of Parkey, coupled with what he’s seen from his kicker mentally since he got to Chicago, that gives Tabor confidence a day like Parkey had against the Detroit Lions won’t happen again.
 
“I know what’s under the hood with this kid,” Tabor said. “That’s why I’m excited for him. I believe in him. I know what type of day that was. We all get it. At the end of the day, we did win the game. That’s a positive.
 
“But you also understand that as we move forward in this journey, it’s going to come down to field goal kicks and that’s his job and he’s really good at it and I have confidence in him. I believe in him.”
 
The Bears invested all that money into Parkey back in March with the belief he would be the long-term solution to the kicking woes that’ve followed this franchise since Robbie Gould missed a game-winning kick and a game-tying kick in consecutive weeks late in the 2015 season, leading to his release (and subsequent career re-birth with the San Francisco 49ers). Part of the consternation, certainly outside Halas Hall, with Parkey’s struggles is in relation to Gould’s success — he’s made 70 of 73 field goals since the Bears let him go, including five and a game-winner in San Francisco’s 15-14 win at Soldier Field last year.
 
But Parkey did miss what would’ve been a game-winning 53-yard try against the Dolphins in Week 6, and has missed five of his last 11 kicks at Soldier Field as fall continues its losing battle to winter along Lake Michigan. The Bears still believe he can make a critical kick in a close game, though, perhaps as soon as this weekend.
 
“He’s doing well,” Tabor said. “He understands. But I’ll say this about him: The good news is the way he prepares, he sets himself up to be successful. Last week, I have to admit: I’ve seen misses. I’ve never seen four misses hit the uprights before.
 
“… He actually struck the ball really well and then it just leaked on him. Every upright that it hit was the way the wind was blowing so to be able to go down to the stadium and continue with that thought process and learning the lines and finding those things, I think it’s gonna be very beneficial for him. He’d only missed one kick in Soldier Field. It’s a learning experience.”

Cody Parkey will kick at Soldier Field Wednesday night

Cody Parkey will kick at Soldier Field Wednesday night

Cody Parkey downplayed the significance of going to practice kicking at Soldier Field Wednesday night, saying he’s heading there to “check all my boxes” and that “it can’t hurt.”

But Parkey’s trip from Halas Hall to the lakefront is noteworthy in the aftermath of the Bears’ kicker missing four PAT/field goal attempts, all of which went off an upright, in Sunday’s 34-22 win over the Detroit Lions. It’ll result in a long day for Parkey, who estimated he’d get back to Halas Hall around 11 p.m. Wednesday night. 

“As a kicker, this is my fifth season doing this, I’ve had highs, I’ve had lows,” Parkey said. “So unfortunately it comes with the territory sometimes. I don’t get down on myself, I know I’m a great kicker. I’m just gonna go out there Sunday and try my best.”

Parkey hasn’t got caught up in the reaction to his historically-bad game, staying off social media and saying he couldn’t care less about ignominiously making a Jimmy Fallon monologue this week. 

“I go home to my wife and my dog, and they don’t really care if I make field goals or not,” Parkey said. “So I find peace in that. I talk to my family, stuff like that. But I don’t beat myself up, I don’t go on social media, I don’t do any of that. I could care less about what anyone thinks of me other than people in this locker room.”

Logistically, getting to Soldier Field from Halas Hall can be an traffic-fueled annoyance, but it’s one the Bears felt was important enough to go ahead and do. Former Bears kickers Robbie Gould and Kevin Butler used to practice kicking at Soldier Field during the week, for what it’s worth. 

The Bears will need Parkey to be better on Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings, in what could be a close, critical game for control of the NFC North. But Parkey won’t change his mental approach for that night, even if his midweek work is now switched up a bit. 

“Same as last week, same as the week before,” Parkey said. “I just try to go out there and make my kicks.”