“The Miss at Midway.”
That was the headline immediately following the NFC Wild Card matchup Sunday night between the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Bears' kicker Cody Parkey had just unfathomably hit the goal posts twice in the same kick as the ball fell into the end zone instead of through the uprights.
All season, the Bears' story had been its seeming return to the heyday of the Richard Dent and Mike Singletary-led “Monsters of the Midway” defense. With the addition of edge rushing pro-bowler Khalil Mack prior to the season, Chicago had cemented itself as a surprise legitimate contender in the NFC.
Mack became one of five pro-bowlers on the Bears roster this year, alongside cornerback Kyle Fuller, safety Eddie Jackson, defensive end Akiem Hicks and punt return man Tarik Cohen. Even with this level of defensive strength, the game was ultimately decided by players who, at the start of the season, would not have been expected to see the field.
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles is no stranger to adversity. In place of injured starting quarterback Carson Wentz, Foles completed one of the most epic playoff runs in the history of the NFL, leading the Eagles to their first Super Bowl and taking home Super Bowl MVP honors.
As the offseason arrived, questions as to whether Foles should start in place of Carson Wentz arose. As it turns out, Wentz’s real competition for the starting spot was never Foles. Rather, injuries were his most pressing opponent. In mid-December 2018, the Eagles lost Wentz to a season-ending back injury.
In his place, Foles flourished. Not only did he return a struggling Eagles team to the playoffs, but he showed up in the biggest moment of a closely-contested wild card game against a Bears defense that had dominated offenses all season.
The Bears quickly appeared to be a surprise Super Bowl contender after leading the NFL in takeaways and winning the NFC North, despite finishing last in the division just one season prior.
But Foles had other plans. Sunday he lead the Eagles on a 12-play, 60-yard game-winning drive in which he completed passes to five different receivers to give Philadelphia a late 16-15 lead.
While many Chicago fans had hoped it would be Mitch Trubisky leading the Bears offense to its first postseason win since 2010, he was only able to put one touchdown on the board against an energetic, yet injury-ridden Eagles defense.
Instead, Parkey was left with a 43-yard kick for the win.
In fairness, this shouldn't have inspired confidence. Earlier this season, Parkey hit the posts an astounding four times against the Detroit Lions on Nov. 11.
That said, he had already made three field goals from 36, 29 and 34 yards Sunday as he walked on for the would-be winning kick.
Seconds before his attempt, the Eagles called timeout in an attempt to ice Parkey. He booted the ball anyway.
Tailing to the left, Parkey's kick slipped through the uprights. It didn't count.
Following the timeout, he lined up for the kick once more. This time, Eagles defensive tackle Treyvon Hester caught a piece of the ball. Wobbling through the frigid Chicago air, the ball struck the left post and then the crossbar before landing in the end zone. The Bears' Super Bowl chances were crushed.
After the game, Parkey took full responsibility.
“You can’t make this up," he said. "I feel terrible. I let the team down. It’s on me. I have to own it. I have to be a man. Unfortunately, that’s the way it went today."
While the Eagles celebrated and the agony of defeat set in for the Bears, the offseason quarterback questions arose once more.
Perhaps the time has finally come for Wentz to take a backseat. Foles had done it again.
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