An open tight end is often the sign of a good offense. But Cole Kmet was so wide open on a downfield pass route in the third quarter against the Lions on Sunday that the anticipation threatened to make the easiest catch a little difficult. If there’s such a thing as being too wide open, this was it.
But Kmet had a bigger problem as Justin Fields’ pass hung in the air and the Soldier Field crowd anticipated a big play.
He lost it in the sun.
“The sun at that time was right in that vision, so I lost it for a couple of seconds and warlike, ‘Where is this thing at?'” Kmet said. “There’s a slight shade coming in and you kind of see it peek through the sun. My baseball days playing center field probably helped out in that situation.”
The Bears’ third-year tight end made the catch at the Lions 17-yard line and — with no defender within 10 yards of him — easily completed a 50-yard touchdown that gave the Bears a 24-10 lead with 2:43 left in the third quarter.
“I think it just set up nice,” Kmet said. “We obviously saw through the game that they were overplaying a little bit. We run a lot of those movements with Justin. Justin really likes those types of pass plays — get him out of the pocket. I was able to kind of nod the safety over. Little bit and the come fall across his face — and it turned out to be a big play.”
Kmet’s 50-yard touchdown was his second in less than five minutes of game time. He previously had scored on a six-yard pass from Fields that was just as well-conceived and well-timed, with Kmet feigning a blocking play and breaking free to get open and make it an easy throw for Fields for the touchdown.
Fields’ record-setting running has been the obvious key to the Bears’ offensive surge under coordinator Luke Getsy — 555 rushing yards in the last five games, 9.0 yards per carry and franchise-record touchdowns of 61 and 67 yards. But Kmet’s production arguably has been the next biggest indicator of the progress of Getsy’s offense. After scoring two touchdowns in his first two seasons under Matt Nagy — both of them in his rookie season of 2020 — Kmet has scored five touchdowns in his last three games.
Kmet’s numbers still are relatively modest. He has 23 receptions for 274 yards (11.9 average). His average of 27.4 yards per game is actually less than it was last season in Nagy’s offense (36.0 — 60-612).
But in Getsy’s offense he looks like a weapon. And he’s becoming a bigger factor as the offense grows. Kmet had no receptions and just two targets in the Bears’ first two games this season. He’s had 13 target in the last two games, with nine receptions for 115 yards and four touchdowns.
“Opportunity, execution,” Kmet said when asked about the difference. “I’m the one on the receiving end as it’s happened the past three weeks. Being able to have a guy like Justin [where] you don’t know run or pass, that’s a big deal for me.’
All the hard work Kmet did to establish a foundation as a blocker — a focus during his two seasons in Nagy’s offense — is paying off. Not only is he an effective blocker, but it makes it easier to sell on a pass play.
“All the blocking I do in-line and being able to release off of that and do some of the things off of the runs we have, [that’s] really helped e out a lot, too,” Kmet said. “And then you just get good matchups against guys. I’m 6-6 going up against a [defensive back] body — that’s usually going to turn out pretty well.”