Placekickers do have preferred hashmarks, as Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro admitted (and immediately wished he didn’t admit) earlier this week. But they’re also expected to make everything presented to them, of course, since they rarely have input on from where a kick will be taken.
There are two situations, though, where a kicker’s preferred location — left hash, center, or right hash — come into play. One is on PATs; the other, theoretically, is on game-ending field goals intentionally set up by a coaching decision.
The Bears have moved on from Pineiro’s missed 41-yard field goal to end their loss to the Los Angeles Chargers last weekend. On Wednesday, Matt Nagy didn’t entertain questions regarding a potential communication breakdown with Pineiro’s preferred spot; on Thursday, special teams coordinator Chris Tabor acknowledged the narrative regarding the kick but said “really, to me, there’s no story.”
While the Bears have long since shifted their focus to preparing for the Philadelphia Eagles, this hashmark kerfuffle does deserve additional scrutiny even if Pineiro should have made the field goal no matter where it was lined up.
“First of all, I would prefer that Eddy makes the kick. That’s my preference No. 1,” Tabor said. “And he will make that kick, I do know that. I also think, coach (Nagy) has addressed it, there’s nothing to say. We were — trust me — we were well where he needed to be.
“He hit a good ball. It was right to left wind, ball got pushed left. We gotta learn from it. Unfortunately it’s a tough one to learn from but I had a lot of confidence in him that he will do that.”
Still, with a winning or losing record (and a three-game losing streak) riding on a game-ending kick, and with Nagy deciding to take a knee before the kick, shouldn’t the team have given Pineiro the best chance to make it?
Pineiro has attempted 12 PATs in 2019’s regular season, with those relevant to this discussion given those are opportunities for him to kick from where he wants. None have come from the left hashmark for the right-footed kicker, either home or away.
Ten of those attempts have been from the center of the field, while he kicked from the right hash on his lone PAT against the Chargers going to the south end zone at Soldier Field. He also kicked from the right hash going right to left (so, north in Chicago) in Denver in Week 2.
Wind certainly plays a factor in these decisions, and 12 PATs is not an especially large sample size. But that the majority of Pineiro’s PATs came from down the middle suggests a preference, as you’d expect it would be for most kickers. Given the wind was blowing from right to left going into the north end zone on Sunday, and given Pineiro barely missed the kick wide left, it’s fair to wonder why the Bears did not move Pineiro to the center of the field to attempt the kick.
“We were prepared to kick the field goal from wherever,” Tabor said. “It makes no difference.”
Tabor said Pineiro’s line on the kick was good and he struck the ball well. He said a slight adjustment in playing the wind would’ve allowed the kick to go in, but felt Pineiro procedurally and technically did what he needed to do to make it. The wind, indeed, played a factor in the miss.
All this being said, Tabor and Nagy had a point: It shouldn’t matter where a 41-yard field goal was attempted. It’s not a short field goal, but we’re not talking about 50-plus yards or anything. Kicks from 41 (or 43) yards to end a game should be expected to be made, wind or not.
But this is not an either-or issue. While the Bears should’ve given Pineiro the best chance to make the field goal, he also should have just made the field goal presented to him.
Last Sunday’s game never should’ve come down to a field goal, nor should it have come down to a kick from 41 yards. But it did, and Pineiro’s miss added more layers of failure to a loss that did not reflect well on the 2019 Bears.
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