CHICAGO -- To the Chicago Bears, it might have seemed that the hand of fate slapped at Cody Parkey’s missed 43-yard field goal, which hit the left upright and then the crossbar before bouncing away, with five seconds remaining. The miss sealed the visiting Eagles’ 16-15 wild-card round playoff round victory Sunday at Soldier Field.
In Eagles, lore, it will be the hand of Treyvon Hester.
“Me and Haloti [Ngata] … we got penetration, got the hand up like coach always says. Tipped off my fingertips. Felt good … [but] actually, I thought I didn’t get enough of it, I thought it was going to go in,” Hester said afterward. “When I saw it going in, I turned back around [away from the goal posts]. Then I heard everybody screaming, I was like, oh, [bleep] … he missed it.”
Hester is the defensive tackle the Eagles signed from the Raiders early this season, initially to the practice squad, then to the roster on Oct. 2. This was his playoff debut.
For Eagles special teamers, the swing of emotions in the final minute was incredible. First, after Nick Foles’ 2-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate on fourth and goal gave the Eagles the lead with 56 seconds left, the normally reliable kickoff coverage team nearly blew the game. Tarik Cohen, contained all day from scrimmage, shook loose from Eagles defensive end Daeshon Hall for a 35-yard return that set the Bears up at their 42. Then 25- and eight-yard completions put Chicago well within field-goal range. But Parkey, a former Eagle, had hit the upright and missed kicks five times this season, which is remarkable. The sixth such miss went well beyond remarkable, straight to miraculous.
“I’m grateful,” said Hall, who was on the field for the game-clinching miss. Asked about the return, he said: “I just missed a tackle.”
Hall said he, Brandon Graham, Ngata and Hester were the d-linemen on the field goal and they got a solid push. Several Eagles told of trying to rattle Parkey with words, after Eagles coach Doug Pederson called timeout just before Parkey booted the ball through for what much of the crowd thought was the game-winner.
Left tackle Jason Peters said Parkey hasn’t been the same since tearing up his groin as an Eagle in 2015. Peters said when he saw how Parkey barely got the ball through on the kick that didn’t count, he felt Parkey wouldn’t have the leg to do it again.
Eagles special teams coach Dave Fipp said the Eagles "took care of 29 [Cohen] for a while, then the guy made a play. Obviously, we didn’t play the play well enough. Gonna fix it and get on to the next one."
Of course, there is a next one to go on to only because Parkey missed. Fipp was Parkey’s coach with the Eagles.
“Thrilled to death for us, sick for Cody,” Fipp said. “He’s a great kid. He’s obviously had a little bit tougher year than I’m sure he wanted to have,” Parkey missing three extra points and seven field goals in 2018.
“He got under the ball and didn’t hit it great,” on the field goal negated by the timeout, Fipp said, though that one went through.
Special teams linebacker LaRoy Reynolds said that on the kickoff return, “we should have done a better job squeezing and pushing it back to the backside … That’s really on me.”
So, Reynolds said, when Parkey missed, he was more than relieved.
“Relieved is an understatement,” he said. “That was unbelievable.”
Malcolm Jenkins was coming in from Parkey’s left on the miss. Parkey hit from 36, 29 and 34 Sunday before his final, errant kick.
“They protected it up pretty well,” Jenkins said. “I could see immediately it was kind of off to the left. It was either gonna squeak in or hit the upright. Then it hit the upright, and it almost looked like it bounced in. Somehow the ball landed in the end zone, so I guess he missed it.”
Eagles players rushed the field, but with five seconds remaining, that was premature.
“I was trying to get everybody off the field,” said Jenkins, who said he “anticipated him missing it.”
“Nothing against Cody, I love him as a former teammate, but we’ve been through too much. It’s hard for me to not believe things are going to work in our favor,” Jenkins said.
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Asked about Hester getting his fingers on the ball, Jenkins said: “I think he did get a hand on it. I know a lot of guys heard that sound, like somebody got a tip on it, so I’m sure that had some effect on it. It’s a game of inches, and it literally came down to that.”
Bears coach Matt Nagy said he hadn’t had a chance to speak with Parkey before his news conference.
“It’s hard. It’s a difficult deal,” Nagy said. “I don’t think you can write that story, just with how things went this year and how he rebounded, and then for that to happen, it’s tough. It’s hard for all the players. It’s hard for him. It’s hard for everybody. It stinks.”
Parkey didn’t mention a tip by Hester, which might not have been visible to him.
“I thought I hit a great ball,” he said. He added that he was “trying to play the wind.”
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Parkey became an Eagle in a trade with the Colts just before the 2014 season. He set an NFL record for rookie scoring and played in the Pro Bowl, after making the roster as an alternate. His groin troubles began the next fall, and he lost a training camp battle to Caleb Sturgis in 2016. Since then he has played for the Browns, Dolphins, and Bears.
“I feel terrible,” Parkey said. “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.”
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