Sunday’s NFL: Eddy Pineiro tabbed to solve Bears’ kicking woes

Associated Press
Chargers rusher Troymaine Pope is hauled down by Saints linebacker Kaden Elliss during their preseason game. The Saints won, 19-17.

Lake Forest, Ill. — The Chicago Bears’ kicking competition is over, for now, with Eddy Pineiro the winner.

The Bears announced Sunday that Elliott Fry was released after an offseason and preseason competition with Pineiro and several other kickers to replace Cody Parkey.

“I feel like I’ve done well,” Pineiro said. “I feel like I’ve kicked well. From OTAs to where I am today, I feel like I’m a completely different kicker.”

The Bears had been looking for a kicker since cutting Parkey following his “double-doink” field goal miss of 43 yards in their 16-15 playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Coach Matt Nagy said Pineiro had not necessarily won the job for the regular-season opener against Green Bay on Sept. 5.

“I want (players) to have the mentality that Eddy is going to be that guy, but we’re getting to that point right now where you’re getting toward the end of the training camps where there’s going to be transactions for a lot of different teams at a lot of different positions,” Nagy said. “So if we feel like something is best for the Bears, that’s what we’ll do.”

Nagy said it was a good time to make the decision between the two because it gives Pineiro a chance to prove himself before final roster cutdowns by other teams put more kickers on the market.

“Human nature is whenever there’s two people for one spot, No. 1, every rep is getting cut in half and then mentally you just don’t know,” Nagy said. “Now there’s a little more clarity.

“Again, it wasn’t easy because they were very close. But that’s what we decided to do. We’re rolling forward with that and now he has two games here to show us what he can do.”

Pineiro saw the benefits of the move.

“The way I look at it, I feel like I haven’t won the competition,” Pineiro said.

“Everything’s still open. Who knows if they bring somebody else in?

“But it does give me a confidence boost, like OK, I have a shot to be the guy and prove to the coaches that I can be the guy that they want me to be. So yeah, I feel a lot more confident.”

Fry was among the first kickers the Bears brought in. At one point, they had nine trying out at Halas Hall in the offseason.

Fry came in after the Alliance of American Football folded. He kicked in college for South Carolina and had kicked in the AAF for Orlando. The Bears acquired Pineiro in a trade with Oakland for a conditional seventh-round draft pick in 2021.

Pineiro made field goals of 27 and 41 yards Friday in a 32-13 loss to the Giants and made a 23-yard kick in the preseason opener against the Panthers. He also missed a 48-yarder against the Panthers. Fry missed a 47-yard kick Friday and had made 43- and 23-yard kicks in the preseason opener.

Kicking in practices had been very close, with Pineiro owning a slight edge while displaying a stronger leg. He made a 63-yarder in practice.

Nagy said there initially was no overall plan to make the cut now, but it had simply worked out this way.

“I think for Eddy, though, he needs to understand that we feel really good with where he’s at,” Nagy said. “He’s never kicked in an NFL game before. So that could go a couple different ways. It could go really good, it could go really bad. We don’t know that answer.”

Bell’s debut delayed

New York Jets coach Adam Gase announced that the star running back Le’Veon Bell (Michigan State) will be held out of the team’s final two preseason games.

Gase and Bell spoke about the plan when training camp started, and Bell’s snaps increased in practiced last week.

Bell has been practicing fully and looked good in training camp after sitting out all last season in a contract dispute with Pittsburgh. Gase and the Jets don’t want to take any unnecessary risks with Bell.

“We’ll just get him as game ready as possible,” Gase said. “He’s not really going to know until we get into a real game, but I feel like he’s in great shape and he’s been contacting about as good as anybody on the practice field.

“So, I feel confident he’ll be ready to go (in) Week 1.”

That would be the regular-season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 8. It will mark the first time Bell will play in a game since the Steelers’ playoff loss to Jacksonville on Jan. 14, 2018 — a span of nearly 20 months.

Preseason games

(At) Minnesota 25, Seattle 19: Rookie tight end Irv Smith Jr. and backup wide receiver Brandon Zylstra each had touchdown receptions for Minnesota and the Vikings displayed depth and versatility in their passing game in an exhibition victory over the Seahawks.

Kirk Cousins (Michigan State) led the starters for two drives, the last one yielding a chip-shot field goal by Dan Bailey, and finished 6-for-8 for 68 yards without a turnover. Second-string quarterback Sean Mannion made up for an interception that safety DeShawn Shead returned 88 yards for a score by finding Smith with a short throw into the end zone just before halftime.

Then Kyle Sloter delivered the touchdown pass to Zylstra in the third quarter, polishing off a decent night for an offense that underwent an offseason scheme change after an underwhelming first year with Cousins at the helm.

The first team took two turns for the Seahawks, too, and Russell Wilson went 6-for-9 for 82 yards without a turnover after sitting out the preseason opener. He had a 33-yard completion to Jaron Brown, who has a starting wide receiver spot for now following the retirement of Doug Baldwin. First-round draft pick D.K. Metcalf did not play because of a leg injury. Brown’s catch set up the first of four field goals by Jason Myers.

New Orleans 19, (at) L.A. Chargers 17: Taysom Hill had 191 yards of offense and directed three second-half scoring drives to help New Orleans past Los Angeles.

In a game where Philip Rivers and Drew Brees were sideline observers, Hill supplied most of the quarterback highlights. The third-year, all-purpose player was 11-of-15 for 136 yards and a pair of touchdowns and ran for 55 yards. New Orleans trailed 17-3 at halftime.

Hill threw a 27-yard TD pass to Austin Carr with 3:10 remaining in the third quarter to bring the Saints (1-1) to 17-10.

Hill then directed an 11-play, 69-yard drive midway through the fourth quarter that culminated in a 1-yard TD pass to Devine Ozigbo. The Saints went for 2, but Hill was sacked by Anthony Lanier II.

Following a Chargers punt, Hill drove the Saints into field goal range, where Will Lutz made a 28-yarder with 1:08 remaining.

Troymaine Pope returned a punt 81 yards for a TD for the Chargers (0-2). Andre Patton had five receptions for 62 yards.

Personnel dept.

Giants wide receiver Golden Tate III, a former Lion, was placed in concussion protocol. Tate sustained the concussion Friday night in the Giants’ victory over the Bears.

... The Colts will put receiver Daurice Fountain on season-ending injured reserve because of a dislocated and fractured left ankle.

... Chargers All-Pro safety Derwin James will have surgery on his right foot this week and could miss three months