Eddy Pineiro makes Bears a walk-off winner after ‘practicing my whole life for this’

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DENVER — Before the Bears’ special teamers took Eddy Pineiro to a South American restaurant in Highwood for his birthday Friday, they brought a piñata into the Halas Hall locker room. With snapper Patrick Scales suspending it in the air, players took their hacks at the piñata, which was procured by punter Pat O’Donnell with a special meaning.

It was a bronco.

Pineiro did the football equivalent with a precious second to play Sunday. In his first-ever road game, the Bears’ rookie kicker drilled a 53-yard field goal as time expired to stun the Broncos, 16-14.

Having faced months of questions about their kicker situation — the Bears cut Cody Parkey after his playoff double-doink, heldA a nine-player kicker derby in rookie minicamp and traded for Pineiro the next day — the Bears finally found some finality.

And a win.

“This was an emotional kick. ….” Pineiro said. “From all the stuff that I’ve been through and the whole kicking situation, the ‘Augusta Silence.’ Do we have a kicker? Do we not have a kicker? And the media and everybody just piling in. It was an amazing moment.’”

Well, do the Bears have their kicker?

“I think they do, yeah,” said Pineiro, who made kicks from 40 and 52 yards in the first half.

After Pineiro was mobbed by his teammates on the field — “Everybody was slapping me and screaming,” he said — he took part in his first “Club Dub” locker room celebration. He donned a cowboy hat that players wore for the theme road trip, and danced.

“Usually scouts, when they look at players like DBs or wide receivers or any skill position, you want to see if that particular player has that ‘dog’ in him — meaning, that raw, doesn’t care, going to go up and compete,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “All throughout training camp and OTAs, we’ve seen that in him.”

Running back Tarik Cohen was more blunt.

“He’s got that [bleep]-it mentality. … ” Cohen said. “He feels like it’s just another kick.”

Sunday, it wasn’t. The kick, which hit the back net on the fly, saved the Bears from an 0-2 start and even louder questions about the viability of their offense.

Coach Matt Nagy said the Bears’ long offseason that the Bears’ kicker would win them a game, someday.

“Games like this just absolutely multiply your confidence to another level …” Nagy said. “You can’t make that up.”

Pineiro was prepared, both during the week and in the moment.

During the week, the Bears showed their players film of the Saints-Texans’ “Monday Night Football” game. Down one with 37 seconds left, the Saints marched 35 yards before calling a timeout with two seconds left after a completed pass — sound familiar? — to set up Wil Lutz’s 58-yard field goal.

When the Broncos made their two-point conversion with 31 seconds, Nagy reminded his players of the kick.

“We went up and down the sideline to all the offensive guys and said, ‘We just watched this — let’s go do the same thing,’” Nagy said. “And they believed it. They did it.”

In the fourth quarter, Pineiro turned to O’Donnell, who doubles as the holder, and predicted he’d make the game-winning kick. O’Donnell smiled, and said they better go warm up with the sideline nets, then.

“I’ve been practicing my whole life for this,” Pineiro said. “All the stuff that I’ve been through. I was praying, ‘God, give me this shot. Give me this shot to win the game.’”

With one second left, he talked to his holder. He said he’d aim a little right, to play the wind. He did just that.

“Birthday week, hits a game-winner,” O’Donnell said. “Good week for him.”

And for the Bears, too, after nine months of uncertainty.

“I think it’s prepared me,” Pineiro said. “All the crap that I’ve been through, and all the stuff with the whole kicking situation and what happened last year.”

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