The stakes weren’t nearly as high on Sunday, but the Chicago Bears found a hero in a kicker.
His name is Eddy Pineiro.
The rookie kicker split the uprights on a game-winning 53-yard field goal as time expired against the Denver Broncos. The 16-14 victory on the road didn’t exactly exorcise the demons of last season’s heartbreaking playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles that saw Cody Parkey’s would-be game-winner bounce off the left upright and crossbar.
But it certainly helps.
Chaos, controversy in game’s final moments
Pineiro’s kick capped a chaotic sequence in the final moments of Sunday’s game that saw the Broncos take the lead on a gusty two-point conversion along with multiple miscues, penalties and controversial calls.
Here’s how it went down.
Trailing 13-6 with 31 seconds remaining, Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco lofted a beauty of a pass over the head of Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller into the outstretched hands of Emmanuel Sanders who snagged the ball and landed in bounds in the back right corner of the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown.
Broncos gamble, screw up, gamble again
Faced with a chance to play for overtime or take the lead in the game’s final minutes, Broncos head coach Vic Fangio chose to roll the dice. Flacco led the Broncos offense on to the field for the go-ahead two-point conversion.
But they didn’t get the play off on time. The play clock ran out, and the Broncos were flagged for a five-yard delay-of-game penalty.
With the ball now at the 7-yard line instead of the 2, Denver opted then to kick an extra point. Except veteran kicker Brandon McManus missed.
The sixth-year Broncos kicker pushed the extra point wide right, and the Bears had the ball and a 13-12 lead with 31 seconds remaining — or so it appeared.
As the Bears sideline celebrated, officials announced that Chicago cornerback Buster Skrine was offside on the play.
The Broncos had another chance at the 2-yard line. And they reverted to their original plan of going for two.
Jubilation at Mile High
Flacco once again found Sanders — this time streaking across the front of the end zone — to convert the two-point conversion and take a 14-13 lead. The Broncos and fans at Mile High celebrated what seemed a sure victory.
But the chaos was just beginning.
Last chance for Bears
The Bears started their final possession on the 25-yard line with 31 seconds remaining after a touchback.
Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky found Trey Burton in the flat for a short gain on first down that didn’t add much to Chicago’s chances of winning. But there was a flag on the play.
Controversial roughing call
Broncos defensive end Bradley Chubb was flagged for roughing the passer on a call that was far from clear cut. Chubb hit Trubisky as soon as he released the ball. He landed on Trubisky with his body weight, which appeared to be the impetus for the controversial call.
After a pair of incompletions from their own 45-yard line and a penalty for too many men on the field, the Bears were in true desperation mode, facing fourth-and-15 from their own 40 with nine seconds remaining.
Does time run out?
Trubisky took the shotgun snap and found Allen Robinson deep downfield for a 25-yard gain to the Denver 35. Robinson fell to the turf, and the clock read zero. Denver appeared to have won the game.
But the officials came out once again and signaled that there was time left. Trubisky had signaled for a timeout as soon as Robinson hit the ground.
After huddling, officials determined that he called the timeout with one second remaining, giving the Bears one last chance to win the game.
Pineiro the hero
They then put that chance on the right foot of Pineiro, who pointed to the sky, lined up the kick and pushed the ball through uprights in the thin Denver air as time ran out, crushing the hopes of a just-jubilant Denver crowd while sending his teammates onto the field in celebration.
There was no flag this time. Game over. Bears win.
It wasn’t how they drew it up. It came on the heels of a second straight ugly game from their offense that saw Trubisky average 4.4 yards per attempt en route to 120 passing yards.
But it was a much-needed, dramatic victory to avoid digging an 0-2 hole to start the season.
And for the first time in a long time, it gave the Bears faith in their kicker.
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