CHICAGO — The late-night trips to Solider Field apparently paid off for embattled kicker Cody Parkey.
The Chicago Bears beat the Minnesota Vikings, 25-20, Sunday night at Soldier Field, and Parkey hit all three field-goal tries a week after hitting the crossbar on four of his kicks against the Lions. Parkey’s final field goal, a 48-yarder with 2:52 remaining, gave the Bears a two-score lead late to ice it.
"He’s a dog," Bears LB Khalil Mack said. "Practice makes perfect. He’s a great kicker. I’m glad he got back to showing it."
Last week’s struggles set off a near citywide panic about the state of the Bears’ kicking, with Parkey receiving the brunt of the blame for the misses. Special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor strongly defended his player, saying that he knew what Parkey had “under the hood.”
All week long, Parkey played out the scenarios in his head about how this game would go. Every single time it ended up with him making the game-winning kick. The way this game ended, there was no last-second make with the game tied; it was a little less dramatic than that. But the pressure remained high, and Parkey kept his cool when it mattered.
"You want it to come down on you," he said. "You have a bad week and you want to get that bad taste out of your mouth. Just to move on."
Parkey and the rest of his field-goal kicking trio made the long trek from the Bears’ practice facility in Lake Forest to downtown Chicago on Wednesday and Thursday to practice kicking on the Soldier Field grass and get a better feel for it.
That helped, but Parkey’s steely nerves came up big when they needed to. Parkey’s first attempt came after the Bears’ opening drive, and it was a perfect length — 33 yards — to get him rolling. When Parkey split the uprights, the fans let out a louder-than-normal ovation, the old Bronx Cheer if you will.
Parkey’s night took a step backward after that point, however, when he kicked the ball out of bounds on the ensuing kickoff. That ended up not hurting the Bears, though, and he was given another chance to prove himself late in the second quarter. The Bears had stolen momentum with a few nice offensive drives, taking an 11-0 lead. He came on for a 41-yard attempt and striped it for a 14-0 lead.
But the real kicker came late as the Bears were trying to salt the game away. There was 2:52 left on the clock with the ball at the Minnesota 30-yard line and the Bears leading 22-14. Would Nagy go for in on fourth down? Take a delay of game and punt it? No — he was putting the game on Parkey’s right leg.
"If hindsight is 20-20, that’s the decision right there," Nagy admitted.
The NBC cameras appeared to catch Nagy winking to Parkey before sending him out there.
“That wasn’t an easy one," Nagy admitted. "It’s one where you want to stay positive."
Parkey told PFW he missed the wink if there was one.
"I was just so laser-focused at that point, what's going on in my head, I didn't see anything like that," he said, laughing — and exhaling — briefly at the end of the long week. "I don't remember seeing much except for what was going on with [the kick]."
The gamble paid off. Parkey made his hardest kick of the night, and it was true, too. Not even close to those pesky goalposts.
"A lot of times you go with your gut reaction," Nagy said. "You talk to your coaches, you talk it through in that quick time right there. ... I am just really, really happy for everyone on that field-goal team to make a great snap, to make a great hold and to make a pressure kick."
And with the make, dozens of Bears players came out to celebrate with him on the field. They clearly knew how tough last week was for Parkey.
"You could see how proud the guys were of him," Nagy said. "That’s something special there."
"You support your guys," Bears DL Akiem Hicks said. "There are going to be people out there who are going to be hard on you, who could never do what you do.
"I think that he's handled it very well. He's very humble about it. And he came out tonight and played one of his best games for us."
Parkey certainly appreciated the moment.
"It's really cool," Parkey said. "This team is really special. If someone plays good or plays bad, everyone just rallies around them."
He handled that — and this game — like the pro Tabor said he was. Just one more ill that has been cured on a 7-3 football team that's in the driver's seat in the NFC North.