The uprights at Soldier Field are still standing. The Chicago Bears are not.
The Bears saw their Super Bowl hopes float into the frigid night Sunday as kicker Cody Parkey’s would-be game-winning field goal doinked off the left upright, then tauntingly hit the crossbar on the way down before hitting the turf to preserve the Philadelphia Eagles’ 16-15 win.
“That’s one of the worst feelings in the world to let your team down, so I feel terrible,” Parkey said. “I’m going to continue to put things into perspective. Continue to put my best foot forward and sleep at night knowing that I did everything in my power this week to make that kick. For whatever reason, it still hit the crossbar and the upright.
“I still couldn’t do it.”
The reason might’ve been the Eagles’ defense — Philadelphia defensive lineman Treyvon Hester said he tipped the ball. That 43-yard miss in the final seconds kept alive the Eagles’ designs on becoming the first franchise to repeat as Super Bowl champions since the 2003-04 New England Patriots.
Philadelphia’s win means the Eagles will play at top-seeded New Orleans in the divisional round, while the Dallas Cowboys will play at the Rams.
The Eagles, who suffered a 48-7 loss at the Saints in November, open as 8 1/2-point underdogs. That’s nothing new. They have been underdogs in five consecutive playoff games, including Sunday, when the Bears were favored by 6 1/2.
“We’re just going to keep fighting,” defensive end Brandon Graham said. “We’ve got another opponent that people are not going to give us a chance on. All we got to do is be the best on that day. We’ve been battle-tested.”
The ending marked the sixth time this season Parkey plunked the upright, most in the NFL. The onetime Eagles kicker did so at Soldier Field four times in a November game against Detroit, twice on field goals and twice on extra points.
“It’s a difficult deal,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “I don’t think you can make right 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.”
This miss was the most excruciating for the Bears, who were hosting a playoff game for the first time since 2011 and had designs on advancing to play the Rams, a team they beat in Chicago last month.
Both the Bears and Eagles struggled to move the ball consistently, so when Chicago built a 15-10 lead early in the fourth quarter, it felt like a comfortable advantage.
But Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who had thrown for a touchdown and two interceptions, had some magic left. Relying on a series of short completions, he moved Philadelphia into scoring range in the final two minutes. On fourth and goal from the 2, Foles connected with Golden Tate with a sidearm touchdown pass with 1:01 on the clock that gave the Eagles a 16-15 lead.
Foles, last season’s Super Bowl most valuable player, said he learned from that giant stage “just how to calm myself in a chaotic moment … getting in the huddle and looking at the guys that I trust and know that it’s all on the line for us, and we’re just going to get the job done.”
Their two-point conversion try was unsuccessful, setting the stage for a last-gasp drive by the Bears.
As the clock wound down, Tarik Cohen had a 35-yard kickoff return, and Mitchell Trubisky had a 25-yard completion to help the Bears move into field goal range.
“We all believed,” Trubisky said. “There was never a doubt that we were out of the game for any one second. So I was just back there doing my job.”
The Bears inched closer and closer, as the crescendo of the packed house swelled to a roar. The crowd cheered wildly as Parkey made his first attempt, although the Eagles had called a timeout just before the ball was snapped.
Next, the brutal ending.