Player perspective-Paul Edinger

The Bears Raiders game looked as if it might be the same old story once again, as Chicago trailed Oakland 18-3 at the conclusion of the first half. However, the game ended with Paul Edinger and the Bears celebrating their first win of the year.

A lackluster effort by the Chicago offense and a porous Bears defense had given Paul Edinger the chance for a 35-yard field goal in the second quarter, but that was the extent of the scoring for the Bears as both teams headed to the lockerroom.

Chicago scored an additional three points on an Edinger field goal in the third quarter, 7 points on a 14 yard pass from Stewart to Booker in the fourth, followed by an 8-yard run by Pritchett later in the fourth.

By the two minute warning, the Bears were struggling to move the ball down the field from their own 14,trying to get within field goal range. After going for a fourth and inches at their own 45 and getting a first down, Stewart spiked the ball to stop the clock. :22 left. A significant nineteen-yard gain on the following play, negated by a penalty on the Bears for offensive holding, had some fans gathering their coats while heading for the exits.

Chicago on the Oakland 40 with: 21 left to play. A dramatic completion from Stewart to White for 29 yards brought the ball to the Oakland 31. : 15 still on the clock. A one-yard run by Anthony Thomas has the Bears on the Oakland 30 with :05 remaining. Just enough time for one more play. Is it close enough for a field goal? A time out by Chicago is immediately followed by a Raiders time out. Paul Edinger, who had been warming up on the sidelines, steps on to the field for a 48-yard field goal attempt. The ball sails on a perfect arc through the uprights. Bears win 24-21.

"As a kicker, that type of a situation is really your dream scenario. It's why you are on the team." Edinger said after the game. "It's more comfortable to get a win by a large margin, but you are often out there with the game on the line. We all wanted this win so badly. Nobody was looking forward to having the game go into overtime."

With fans in Soldier Field going from boos during much of the first half to cheers during the remainder of the contest, Edinger's last second try for a field goal represented the best chance thus far for the 0-3 team to finally get a win. Three consecutive regular season losses and a position at the bottom of their division indicated that the Bears needed to stop the downward slide immediately.

"Was there pressure on me because of our record up to that point," Edinger said. "I'd say that definitely was the case. We hadn't won yet this year. Nobody wants to hear our fans booing while they are watching us play. But pressure is something that a kicker has to deal with on a day in and day out basis. We learn to deal with it in a positive way. I do this by finding time to concentrate. That's why I like to go off by myself."

Edinger's usual routine is to warm up along the sidelines with long snapper Patrick Mannelly and holder Brady Maynard. Then he checks the flags over the field to get a sense of wind direction and speed. A brief moment alone helps the kicker's concentration.

"I like to get in a kind of a zone before I kick," Edinger said. "I think solely about that one moment in the game. I don't want anybody talking to me. I don't want anybody encouraging me. I just don't want anybody around getting in my face. I know what I need to do and I am willing myself to do it."

But what happens to this carefully constructed mental state when the opposing team calls a last second time out, as the Raiders did in Sunday's game?

"Not a big deal," Edinger said. "It happens all the time. Actually I just sort of laugh about that. The other team doesn't realize that by attempting to ‘ice' me, they are really just giving me more motivation to get the kick exactly right. It doesn't distract me as much as it makes me mad and want to succeed all the more."

Edinger has found that planning his kicks in the restructured Soldier Field requires some adjustment and occasional mental recalculation.

"In that sense, the more time the other team gives me before I go out there, the better." Edinger said. "The one disadvantage for those of us who are kicking here is that we aren't familiar with the nuances of the new field just yet. Brad Maynard and I were quite comfortable with the quirks that existed here before construction began. It often gave us a major advantage over our opponents."

For a punter or a kicker, adjusting to a new field requires substantial additional practice time and a meteorologist's savvy to understand where the swirls and downdrafts will occur. Unexpected changes of wind direction also need to be taken into consideration.

"Both Brad and I have been here quite a bit trying to figure that out," Edinger said. "Luckily, today the wind was fairly light so I didn't see it as a huge factor. Also, I felt quite comfortable kicking from that distance. I've done quite a bit this year from 50,53,and 55 yards."

What about the confidence factor? Being a kicker can be a lonely and an uncertain job in a team oriented sport. Does Edinger feel the unspoken support of his peers each time he approaches the ball?

"Definitely," he said. "I know that the team has confidence in me. That's why I am out here in these types of situations. I also have great confidence in myself and in the players who are supporting me. I have an excellent snapper and a holder who know me well. They do everything they can to give me an advantage."

By clinching a first win in this 2003 Bears season, it would seem that the confidence of Edinger's teammates has been well placed.

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