The Bears might like to have us believe that the symbolic 43-yard field goal through the North end-zone goal posts by Elliott Fry in the preseason-opening loss to the Panthers Thursday night was planned.
The truth of the matter: it was a simple twist of fate.
“You could sense it,” Matt Nagy said. “You could feel it, you could sense it, from all the fans, and I looked over and I said – after the completion down the middle, and then they spotted it, and I'm so used to seeing – like my math is really good right now I can figure out real quick how far a field goal kick it from the spot of the ball, so I realized it was 43. Am I right? Yeah, then coach Rivera pops a time-out, too.”
Rivera admitted afterward he was doing his old organization a solid, adding one more layer of irony and eerie familiarity to the moment. Heck, Fry wasn’t even here in January, when Cody Parkey kicked his way out of town and Fry was deep in preparations with the now-defunct AAF’s Orlando Apollos — but Fry was well aware of the bizarre circumstances.
“I did know it was 43 yards,” he said with a grin. “Obviously that number is ingrained in my memory.”
Obviously that play is ingrained in an entire city’s memory, making the magnitude of the kick and the competition in which he and Eddy Pineiro are vying to exorcise the franchise’s “double-doink” demons, difficult to categorize, however many times we try.
“That’s just a thing you know is a possibility,” Fry said of getting iced before he nailed the kick, to the glee of Bears fans in attendance. “You don’t really think about it too much. It really doesn’t have that much of an effect on anything. You still have to make the kick. I’m not out there thinking about Cody’s kick from last year. I’m not thinking about anything like that. I’m just going in focusing on making it.”
That he did, unlike Pineiro on his — and the Bears’ — first preseason attempt in the kicking derby, a 48-yarder pushed wide left.
“It’s not fun to miss. You want to make every single kick, but I’m going to learn from it and bounce back next game and hit my kicks,” Pineiro said. “That’s what I’m here for.”
But the Bears didn’t go to such great lengths this offseason — bringing in eight placekickers to rookie minicamp and manufacturing pressure in practice in myriad unorthodox ways — to cut bait on Pineiro after one preseason miss (he hit his second attempt, a 23-yarder in the fourth quarter — and anoint Fry because he aced his first test.
“We want these guys to make every single kick, and Eddy missed that 48-yard field goal tonight slightly wide left but did make his other shorter field goal. Elliott made his extra point. We'll go through this thing and let them see what kind of production they show us. This was the big stage tonight for them, it's as big as we can get it before the season starts.”
And Fry showed the lights weren’t too bright, no matter how much it felt like a made-for-TV moment.
“I think we handled it well,” he said. “Every kick is the same, whether you’re out there in practice, there’s no difference feeling-wise. It’s no different than the practice at Soldier Field last week or any other kick. You really learn to cope with everything. Every kick is kind of the same. I don’t go out there thinking this is so much different because I’m in a game. You really have to be good at thinking every kick is the same.”
The distance — 43 yards — was the same but the dynamics have shifted completely. And Nagy obviously is a lot more pleased with this result.
“No, it wasn't planned but I'm kinda glad he did it.”
Of course, it was Fry’s first preseason boot in the battle to replace Cody Parkey — he of 43-yard North end zone “double-doink” infamy — and his first-ever attempt