By Adam Hoge-
MINNEAPOLIS (CBS) — The day was not supposed to end that way for Robbie Gould.
After experiencing the birth of his first born son and flying up to Minnesota early Sunday morning, Gould had a chance to kick the game-winning field goal for the Bears in overtime. Instead, he missed, leaving the exhausted kicker in an emotional state after the Vikings eventually won 23-20.
“There’s no excuse at all,” he said. “My wife did awesome. There were a lot of lessons in one day. It was one of the greatest days of my life and I’m happy for my wife and my little boy. Sorry I couldn’t do it for my teammates like I did for my wife.”
At that point, Gould paused, fighting back tears.
“It’s hard to swallow. We’re in a playoff hunt. I love my teammates just like I love my wife and baby and I just didn’t do it today. It’s on me.”
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Of course, it wasn’t all on him. Bad penalties, holes in the secondary and a lack of offensive execution in short yardage situations had just as much to do with the Bears loss — if not more — but obviously there’s no debating that if Gould had made the field goal, his team would have won the game.
“I missed it. I got to go out there and do my job. It went wide right. It’s pretty obvious that it did that. I didn’t come through for my teammates in the end … It’s very unlike me, but there are no excuses for it,” Gould said.
Maybe there aren’t excuses, but there are things the Bears could have done to help their kicker out.
In a simplistic sense, one would expect Gould — who had a chance Sunday to become the most accurate kicker in NFL history — to make a 47-yard field goal indoors.
“It was in my range,” he said. “I make that kick a lot. I just got to step up and make it. I just didn’t do it.”
That may be true. But he also makes a lot of field goals inside of 47-yards too, and the Bears had two more downs to work with. Head coach Marc Trestman elected to kick it on second down, instead of trying to get closer.
“We were definitely in range and I didn’t want to risk a possible penalty that would set us back — similar to what happened on the other side — or a fumble of some kind, something unique,” Trestman said after the game.
The Vikings had just had a game-winning field goal wiped out by a face mask penalty moments before, so that was certainly fresh in his mind.
But Gould missing a 47-yarder would probably count as something unique too. Is it more or less unique than a fluky penalty or turnover? The Bears’ analytics probably have an answer on that, but what can’t be denied is how well the Bears were running the ball just before the field goal attempt: five straight carries by Matt Forte for a total of 24 yards.
“I felt like we were clearly in range and we could get the game over at that time. Certainly we were running the ball very well,” Trestman admitted.
So why not try at least one more run, given the success on the drive?
“There’s no guarantee that we would get any yards on second down or third down,” Trestman said. “There’s no guarantee of that on second down. So I just felt we were range and let’s get it done. I’ve seen it happen many times before. That’s the situation that it was and we didn’t get it done.”
Essentially, Trestman had more trust in his kicker to make a 47-yard field goal than he did in his offense to not screw up. And, given the current state of his football team — which committed six more penalties and a turnover Sunday — it’s hard to argue with that logic, especially given Robbie Gould’s 86.3 career field goal percentage coming into the game.
“They called me out there to go kick it and I gotta go kick it,” Gould said. “It’s a 47, 48-yarder? I got to make it. That’s in my range. I mean, I’m an 86-point, what? Well, it’s probably going to go down now, but you know, before that, I had a chance to take over the No. 1 spot.”
He did, but on a 66-yarder at the end of regulation that certainly wasn’t in his range. After the second miss, in overtime, Gould’s percentage dropped to 85.8, putting him third all-time behind Mike Vanderjagt’s 86.5 and Nate Kaeding’s 86.2.
“A kicker like that has to come through for his teammates in the end, especially when you’re in the playoff hunt and I didn’t do that today,” Gould said. “It’s on my shoulders. So if you want to put the blame somewhere, it falls right on me.”
It’s admirable for Gould to take the blame, especially considering his obvious displeasure about the lack of a contract extension before the season started, but there’s a lot more that went into Sunday’s ugly loss in Minneapolis than his miss. Trestman’s reluctance to trust his offense to get even one or two more yards without doing something stupid proves just that.
“That game could have cost us the playoffs and that’s on my shoulders,” Gould said.
And yet anyone who witnessed Sunday’s game knows there’s a lot more standing in the way of Bears making the playoffs than their kicker.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.