Bears fans booed long before unreliable Cody Parkey clanged the left upright and then the cross bar, ending the Bears’ season with his missed 43-yard field goal try in the closing seconds.
They showered Alshon Jeffery with boos every time he caught the football. They might have even called him Alshon “Jefferys.”
“I’m used to getting booed,” Jeffery said after he and his Philadelphia Eagles teammates stunned the Bears 16-15 in their NFC wild card playoff game at Soldier Field on Sunday. “It comes with the territory, just going on the road and playing football.”
As sure-handed as the wide receiver was in his five seasons in Chicago, registering 1,000-receiving yards in back-to-back seasons and earning Pro Bowl honors following his 2013 campaign, Jeffery was sometimes unreliable himself. He missed 17 of a possible 80 regular-season games from 2012-16, often due to soft-issue injuries.
In his return to Chicago following a 65-catch, 6-touchdown regular season (he missed 3 games), Jeffery got the last laugh. He caught 6 passes for 82 yards and delivered big on the Eagles’ go-ahead touchdown drive.
A reporter asked him what he would say to the post Parkey pegged.
“Appreciate you,” Jeffery said with a wide smile. “Fly, Eagles, fly.”
Signing a one-year deal with the Eagles following the 2016 season has worked out well for the Bears’ second-round pick in 2012 out of South Carolina. He caught 57 passes, including 9 TDs, and didn’t miss a regular-season game. He then added 3 TD receptions during the Eagles’ playoff run, which ended with them winning Super Bowl LII.
He signed a four-year contract extension ($27 million guaranteed) in December of 2017.
So while he had nothing to prove against the Bears, he was still admittedly fired up in his first game at Soldier Field since he left.
“Coach Groh talked to me,” Jeffery said of Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh. “He just said relax, don’t let my emotions get the best of me and just play football.”
Football is an emotional game, however.
“Any time you play against your former team, you obviously go out there and you focus and you want to play (well), but there’s always an added something,” Eagles quarterback Nick Foles said. “I knew coming back to Chicago, where he was an elite receiver, that was emotional for him. But he always comes ready to play. He’s a big-time player.”
Jeffery reminded the Bears of that with Philadelphia trailing 15-10 in the fourth quarter. Starting at their 40 with 4:48 left, the Eagles immediately picked up 15 yards on Foles’ pass to Jeffery over the middle. Later, on third-and-9 from the Bears 13, Foles fired to Jeffery, who was stopped at the 2 by Adrian Amos Jr.
“I was trying to score, but I got the first down,” Jeffery said. “That’s all that matters.”
Kyle Fuller broke up an intended pass for Jeffery on third-and-goal. But on fourth down, Foles took the snap out of shotgun formation, sprinted to his right and zipped a pass to Golden Tate for a touchdown with 56 seconds left.
Jeffery was Foles’ second read, but all that mattered for Jeffery was that his teammate caught the ball. Tate’s TD capped a 12-play drive that started with 11 confident guys huddling up with their season on the line.
“The guys in the huddle, we knew we were going to go down and score,” Jeffery said. “It had to come down to fourth-and-goal, but fortunately it worked out.”
When Parkey missed his chance to win it for the Bears, an Eagles team that had too many things go against them in their first 10 games (6 losses) could only smile.
“I still can’t believe it,” Jeffery said. “Hats off to everyone in this locker room. Hats off to those guys (Bears). They got a heck of a defense, a heck of a team.”
Jeffery plays for one too.