Cairo Santos hasn’t missed a field goal since Dec. 20 — not that he’s keeping track.
“That’s the date?” he said.
On “Monday Night Football” last year, Vikings defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson reached his right paw up at the line of scrimmage to block Santos’ 49-yard try with 28 seconds left in the first half of what would be a 17-9 loss.
Santos has made 19-straight field goals ever since, the second-longest streak in the NFL. The Raiders’ Daniel Carlson has lapped the field, making 41 in a row and counting. Santos made 40 in a row — four off of Adam Vinatieri’s record — before missing a prayer of a 65-yarder as time expired in the Bears’ loss to the Steelers on Nov. 8, 2021. He missed his only field goal the next game and 1-of-2 the one after that. That was as close as he got to a cold streak.
Santos has made 69-of-75 field goals since rejoining the Bears in 2020. Put more simply: he’s missed one fewer field goal in two-and-a-half Bears seasons than Cody Parkey did in the 16 regular-season games of 2018.
“That’s what you want as a kicker: to give everybody the confidence that you’re going to go and get the job done and be a pro about it,” Santos said this week. “And if bad things happen, you know how to bounce back. It’s not something where I need coaching, in a sense; I can kind of fix myself.
“If that’s they want, that’s what I work toward giving to them.”
Three weeks after missing the Giants game with a personal issue, Santos won NFC Special Teams Player of the Week last month after making all four field goals in a win against the Patriots. Special teams coordinator Richard Hightower has praised his consistency on the field — “His steps are always the same, his operation times are usually in the same area,” he said — and off of it. Hightower is convinced that being about Santos “has really helped” rookie punter Trenton Gill, whose net average is 15th among punters.
“When you get across midfield, there’s a zone there where you’re going to potentially go for it, you can punt-and-pin or you could kick …” head coach Matt Eberflus said. “When you get to that kick line, you feel real confident …. A guy like Cairo, man, that helps you make good decisions. It helps you stay ahead of the game a little bit.”
Eberflus should know. He was in Indianapolis for the end of Vinatieri’s career.
“Having the attitude of, ‘We’re going to make the kick and we’re gonna be successful once we get into that zone,'” he said. “It certainly fosters confidence for the whole group.”
Santos gives the Bears consistency where they need it most. He’s made four kicks of 50 yards or more this season, his most in seven years.
Entering Sunday’s game against the Lions, the Bears have scored touchdowns on 55.2 percent of their trips to the red zone, which ranks No. 16 in the league. That’s a significant uptick; as recently as three ago, the Bears ranked No. 28 in the red zone efficiency.
Credit quarterback Justin Fields and an offense that sprung up during the Bears’ open weekend after losing to the Commanders.
“For me, I see more opportunities to kick,” Santos said. “I love seeing that. Obviously for team morale, for everybody to perform the way everybody expects them to. It’s a great thing.
“We root for each other’s success. Seeing that, I think everybody is able to enjoy what we have here.”
Including Santos, whose hot streak rolls on.
“It feels like you’re just moving and not thinking,” he said. “You’re just kinda reacting to your routine that I always do at practice, and try to repeat it every day.
“It takes work to keep that machine well-oiled. I just focus on that and just try to keep it going.”