Paul Edinger had been the object of considerable speculation earlier in the season when his formerly perfect record had been marred by several unexpected misses, starting with 2 during the game against Detroit on October 26.
After seeing 2 more go wide against Arizona on November 30,Edinger began intensive work on timing and accuracy in the Bears indoor facility. His record improved almost immediately as he registered 2 out of 3 field goals in the December game against Minnesota.
"I never lost confidence," Edinger said. "The media made a lot out of a minor situation. If I were about to let something like that rattle me, I would be of no value whatsoever to this team."
Edinger's is a solitary specialty, most often on call when the chips are down at the end of a close game. It's a situation he clearly enjoys. He tends to stay isolated on the sidelines, not allowing any distractions to disrupt his field of concentration, save for occasional conversation with holder Brad Maynard. While other players who might be nearby will stop to watch Edinger's complex pre-kick practice routine, but most of them know better than to intrude on the kicker's privacy.
That doesn't mean however, that his efforts are ignored. He is widely viewed as one of the most valuable parts of the Bears offensive unit, particularly by head coach Dick Jauron.
"Paul's kick today was absolutely incredible," Jauron said. "The fans at home or those who were sitting in the stands really had no idea just how strong the wind was today, or how viciously it was swirling on the field. Making an accurate kick was just about impossible."
Trough a long process of trial and error since the new facility opened this fall, Edinger has found ways to fine tune his kicking game to compensate for the fickle meteorological conditions. Edinger and holder Brad Maynard are often the first on the pre game practice field, and the last to leave as game time approaches.
Edinger always confers with Jauron about the field conditions and the parameters he prefers as far as field goal range is concerned.
"He told me today that he'd be accurate from 30 yards," Jauron said. "Definitely no further than that. As the game progressed, I could see why. Instead of dying down as it usually does, the wind seemed to increase in intensity. It seemed to bounce off different parts of the stands, going from one direction, then from another."
Edinger made his first attempt in the first quarter from the 19. It was good for 3. A second quarter try went wide right. With 8:33 in the 4th a 33-yard FG attempt again went wide right. The final field goal would have to travel 45 yards.
"We just didn't have the time to get any closer than that," Jauron said. "There weren't enough time outs left for a good play. When Paul went out to kick that final field goal, I watched the ball as it left his foot. I wasn't sure where it would go. It must have changed directions at least 8 times while it was in the air. It was absolutely incredible that he was able to get it through."
So is Edinger satisfied with his season thus far?
"Not completely " he said. "We started out great, then I had a few misses. Things finally turned around so I guess I'd say things are better. But I'm not completely where I'd want to be. I don't think most kickers are ever completely satisfied. You're always tweaking one thing or another about your technique. A day like today, though, really erases a lot of the bad times from earlier games."