Last Thursday, the Bears lost a football game that didn’t matter. However, for Eddy Pineiro and Elliott Fry it meant everything. Just about every NFL kicker and punter knows that for them, preseason games are just as important as the real games. No other position has as much riding on their future employment as specialists do in preseason games. This was not a preseason game for Pineiro and Fry, this was game 1.
After one game, the Bears kicking situation became only marginally clearer. Here is what we learned:
Because he has a stronger leg, and probably because he was the frontrunner to win the position going into the game, Eddy Pineiro was given the opportunity to kickoff the preseason opener. Pineiro blasted his first offering into the endzone for a touchback and phase 2 of the longest and most talked about kicker competition in NFL history was underway.
Kicker Scoreboard: Pineiro 1 Fry 0
After a few stalled drives and Pat O’Donnell bombs, David Montgomery continued to impress with a 7-yard touchdown run. Enter Elliott Fry for the point after; Fry was pure as the Bears tied the game at 7-7.
Kicker Scoreboard: Pineiro 1 Fry 1
Fry handled the ensuing kickoff and didn’t have the leg strength to cancel out a return. The ball was fielded at the 1-yard line and brought out 22 yards to the 23-yard line. This was a good coverage kick, however, the best way to limit the possibility of a big return is to ensure there is no return at all.
Kicker Scoreboard: Pineiro 1 Fry 0
On the next Bears drive, Pineiro’s night took a turn for the worse as he was called on to attempt a 48-yard field goal late in the second quarter. Pineiro never sniffed the middle of the uprights and was wide left on the attempt. No one would say a 48-yarder is a gimmie, but it certainly won’t get any easier to convert when its December, the turf is green spray-painted frozen dirt, and the wind is blowing 20mph off the lake. A low pressure, preseason, 80-degree Chicago night with no wind to speak of is easily the best conditions to kick in the kicker graveyard known as Soldier Field.
Kicker Scoreboard: Pineiro -2 Fry 0
An impressive 43 second drill from Chase Daniel brought the Bears to the Carolina 25-yard line, which meant Elliott Fry would come on to attempt…wait for it…A 43 YARD FIELD GOAL WITH 3 SECONDS LEFT (in the half). Fry calmly banged home his first FG attempt as a Chicago Bear – a smooth looking ball that never left center cut. The result yielding the loudest fan reaction of the night. Something you may have missed is that prior to the kick, Riverboat Ron Rivera called a time-out. When asked about this decision, Rivera said he was trying to help the Bears and their coaching staff out. This was a very cool moment and shows a lot about the character of one Rico Rivera.
Kicker Scoreboard: Pineiro -2 Fry 3
With just over seven minutes left, Eddy Pineiro had a shot at a little redemption. Pineiro easily punched through a 23-yard field goal to savage what would have been a largely disappointing night for the kicker.
Kicker Scoreboard: Pineiro 1 Fry 4
The final kick of the night was an Eddy Pineiro kickoff which failed to reach the endzone. The greater problem with this result and that Pineiro is in this competition due to his supposed kickoff power. This was not evident on this kick vs. the Panthers.
Final Kicker Scoreboard: Pineiro 0 Fry 4
I feel Fry’s game one performance was good enough to move him ahead in the kicking competition. After going center cut on his first extra point attempt, the former ‘Cock (never not funny) made his only FG attempt. Fry’s kickoffs left something to be desired but placekicking consistency will always trump kickoff strength in a league where a premium is placed on points. This a guy who made 161 of 162 extra points during his college career; there is no concern over his short-range accuracy.
The other participant in the Bears Kickerpolloza did not have nearly as good of a night. While Eddy Pineiro has a stronger leg, consistency issues continue to plague him. This was a first impression of sorts for Eddy, and unfortunately, he had the look and the performance of guy who is struggling with confidence issues.
While extra points and field goals get a majority of the attention in this kicking battle, do not overlook the importance of kickoffs and how they will affect the Bears decision on who stays and who goes. Neither kicker pulled away from the competition last night and the neck and neck race continues. If everything continues as it has, the job will go to the better kickoff man. The Bears will not carry a kickoff specialist on the 53 man roster and Pat O’Donnell cannot fill that role. So, moving forward, look beyond extra point and field goal accuracy and focus on touchbacks and kickoff placement.
So, after almost 900 words about kicking, I leave you with this…right now, I don’t see either guy being the Bears kicker in the week 1 opener vs. Green Bay.