On a second-and-seven play on the Bears’ second possession Monday night, tight end Demetrius Harris dropped what would have been a first-down catch and you could almost hear a collective groan from Bears fans.
The Bears drafted tight end Cole Kmet in the second round, signed Jimmy Graham in free agency — and their first target in a marquee game is to Demetrius Harris?
Sure enough, Bears coach Matt Nagy seemed to be thinking along the same lines. On the first play from scrimmage on their next drive — after the Rams scored on Jared Goff’s four-yard touchdown pass to Josh Reynolds for a 7-0 lead — Bears quarterback Nick Foles threw a deep ball for Kmet that the 6-6, 258-pound rookie from Notre Dame corralled along the left sideline for a 38-yard gain to the the Rams 44-yard line.
Kmet made a nifty move to make the grab and beat tight coverage from Rams safety Taylor Rapp. Foles had been pushed to his right by Rams pressure and threw the ball back to the left side — not usually a recipe for success in the Bears’ offense. Center Cody Whitehair made it possible with a desperation shove on Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald that gave Foles just enough time to make the difficult throw across his body.
It was the Bears’ longest pass play of the season. The previous longest play was a 37-yard touchdown pass from Foles to Allen Robinson in the comeback against the Falcons in Week 3. It was the longest pass reception by a Bears tight end since Trey Burton’s 47-yard catch against the Buccaneers in 2018 — the same game he also caught a 39-yard touchdown in a 48-10 rout.
Kmet’s 38-yard reception breathed life into the Bears offense. Foles hit Kmet for a seven-yard catch on the next play and the Bears eventually reached the Rams’ 24, where Cairo Santos kicked a 42-yard field goal to cut the Rams lead to 7-3 with 14:13 left in the first half.
Foles did not target Kmet for the rest of the half, but just that the Bears let their prized draft pick get downfield to make a play was encouraging. It was Kmet’s second big play in as many games. He caught his first NFL touchdown last week against the Panthers, a nine-yard reception from Foles.
Prior to that, Kmet had made modest impact in his first five NFL games. He had just one catch — a 12-yard gain against the Giants in Week 2 — and just three targets.
To his credit, the St. Viator product acknowledged anxiety to make an impact but also stayed patient, confident that his day would come.
“You just have to keep doing it,” Kmet said prior to the Panthers game. “ “You have to do what the coaches ask of you, and at the end of the day, I can’t control necessarily how many plays I’m out there.
I can give coaches reasons to put me out there but I don’t make that decision to put myself in the game. I’m just taking care of what I need to take care of at this point and know that things are going to work out when I do that.
From the start of training camp, Kmet has looked like a player who can contribute. But more and more it seems like the Bears’ offense is going to have to mature for that to happen. It was just one play Monday night, but it was an indication eventually he’ll get there.