CHICAGO – To the Chicago Bears, it might have seemed that the hand of fate slapped Cody Parkey’s missed 43-yard field goal, which hit the left upright and then the crossbar before bouncing away, with five seconds remaining, sealing the visiting Eagles’ Ea16-15 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 8-yard completions put Chicago well within field-goal range. But Parkey, a former Eagle, had hit the upright to miss kicks five times this season, which is remarkable. The sixth such miss went well beyond remarkable, straight to miraculous.
Hall said he, Brandon Graham, Ngata and Hester were the defensive 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 a 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.
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 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.”
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 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.”
“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.”
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review’s sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.