For once, Bears not the team with a rickety kicker
While Cairo Santos has made 18 straight field goals for the Bears, Dan Bailey is coming off one of the worst games by any kicker this season.
Cairo Santos had never met Dan Bailey until they chatted before the Vikings-Bears game last month. Santos doesn’t need to know his life story, though, to feel sympathy for what Bailey is going through.
While Santos has made 18 consecutive field goals for the Bears, Bailey is coming off one of the worst games by any kicker this season. In a 26-14 loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday, he missed three field goals and an extra point.
“It hurts to see,” Santos said Friday. “It’s hard to watch because I’ve been there.”
In October 2019, Santos was cut by the Titans after missing four field goals in a loss. That feels like a long time ago.
In a game Sunday that will eliminate one team from playoff contention, -every point counts. And the Bears, amazingly, aren’t the team with the rickety kicker.
What in the name of Cody Parkey is going on?
“It has certainly been nice,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “We’re not talking about it a lot, which has been good. And for a good reason — he’s doing well.”
When Santos made both field goals last Sunday, he became the first Bear to drill at least 18 in a row since Robbie Gould got to 24 in 2006. Santos, who is 21-for-23 on the season, hasn’t missed a kick since Week 3.
“Those are good things to handle,” Santos said. “Obviously, having a hot streak, you definitely have more confidence. You’re looser about how you approach the day.”
To finish the season with a worse percentage than last year’s starter, Eddy Pineiro, Santos would have to miss four of his next six kicks.
To do worse than Parkey in 2018, he’d have to miss six of his next seven.
“I think there are so many little elements that go into kicking and having success that you can’t neglect those things and take those for granted — just because I’ve got a streak going, just because I’ve got it figured out,” Santos said. “I’ve been humbled so many times, and I just try to keep that same mentality because it can snap anytime.”
In Tampa, Florida, last Sunday, Bailey missed the extra point after the Vikings’ first touchdown. On the next drive, he pushed a 36-yard field goal right. On the drive after that, he missed a 54-yarder to the right.
He missed his third field goal — also wide right — with about nine minutes to play. Had he made it, he would’ve closed the Vikings’ deficit to six.
Bailey has made only 12 of 18 field goals. He has missed four extra points; before this season, he’d missed only seven in nine years.
Bailey’s 66.6% mark on field goals is the worst of any kicker who’s still employed. The Jets cut Sergio Castillo, who made 61.5% of his kicks, this week after he missed three field goals Sunday.
The Vikings are sticking with Bailey for Sunday. Beyond that is anybody’s guess.
“We’re not going to dwell on it,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told reporters Thursday. “Everybody else is, but we’re not.”
While the Bears are careful to not jinx anything — “I mean, you’re only as good as your next game,” special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor said — they’re thrilled with Santos. It’s worth wondering if, in the two weeks between now and the rest of the season, the team would explore a contract extension for him. His deal is up at the end of the year.
Santos, 29, is open to it.
“It’s been a goal of mine to have stability,” Santos said. “Every year, I always feel I have to keep proving myself, being a better kicker every year. It’s been something I’ve been working toward.”