In a moment of pure clutch this afternoon, Chicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould converted a 41-yard field goal with no time remaining to defeat the Carolina Panthers. It was an ending that surely had fans' hearts racing, yet for Gould it was all in a day's work.
Gould's field goal capped a fourth quarter in which the team rallied from 17-9 to pull out a 23-22 victory. It was redemption for Gould, who missed a 33 yarder earlier in the game.
"There was no excuse for missing that field goal earlier in the game," Gould said after the game. "I screwed up in a way that could have cost our team. I felt it was on me to win at the end. I had to make it up to the guys and to Jay."
Gould said said kickers dream of those late-game moments where they have the opportunity to finish off an opponent.
"Remember when you were a kid and maybe pretended you were making the winning shot for the Bulls, or that final goal for the Hawks? That was the kind of thing I always dreamed about," said Gould. "For me of course, it was winning the Super Bowl. I'd see myself standing there, the crowd cheering, then I'd back up, step into the ball and it would sail right through.
"When you are able to get a win for your team it means everything. That validates all the work you have been doing to reach this point for many, many years."
Gould said clutch situations like today's don't call for any special preparation.
"I'm better off if I approach a clutch kick the same way I would approach a kick in practice. I warm up on the sidelines and step on to the field. There's always a little hesitation while I check the wind direction and then I go.
"Today the wind was odd, swirling around and somewhat hard to predict. [Justin] Medlock of the Panthers had been doing a great job with it all day. I knew I could as well."
Gould is no stranger to game-winning kicks. It was the 10th game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter or overtime during his career, including the postseason. He said the missed field goal earlier in the game did not shake his confidence.
"I was angry at myself but never lost confidence. I never should have missed the first one. I was a glad to have the chance to make for that one. I never miss from 33 yards but I did today. It wasn't my finest moment and could have lost us this game. All the guys on offense did a great job helping me turn things around mentally and get ready for that last one."
The winds at Soldier Field today were from the northwest with gusts up to 25 mph. Gould said he's well aware of the tricky conditions for kickers at Soldier Field and never wants to use that as an excuse.
"What would I claim, that it was windy the first try, then perfect for the second?" he said. "Unfortunately things don't work that way in this stadium. I played outside the post the first kick. By the second time, I had adjusted properly. It's pretty tough to get a win in the National Football League and we're all happy to have gotten this one."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.