Bears enter NFL playoffs with no kicker problems, but issues everywhere else

JJ Stankevitz
·3 min read

Stankevitz: At least Bears solved kicking woes in 2020 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Remember two years ago when it seemed all the Bears had to do was find a reliable kicker and we could start planning a parade down Michigan Avenue?

It’s ironic that the Bears return to the playoffs this weekend having solved their maddening kicking woes – yet now, everything else feels like a problem.

Cairo Santos set a Bears record with his 27th consecutive made field goal Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, a record previously held by Greatest Bear of All Time Robbie Gould, who made 26 straight field goals from 2005-2006. He’s been automatic from inside 40 yards – 19 of 19 – and only has two misses beyond this year.

Through the uprights. That's all I think of, man,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “He's going to be making bank this year. That's all I'm saying. Big money. He's been big for us.

Santos, indeed, is in line to make bank this offseason – this after he bounced between five teams, including the Bears, from 2017-2019. He wasn’t even supposed to be the Bears’ kicker this year. His signing was initially explained as a COVID-related precaution after Ramiz Ahmed was released before training camp practices began in August.

It turned out Eddy Pineiro wasn’t healthy – he spent the season on injured reserve and, quite literally, we have not seen him kick a football in over a year – so the Bears tenuously turned to Santos. And there were even some questions back in September about how long Santos would be in Chicago, since Pineiro became eligible to come off injured reserve after Week 3 – the last time Santos missed a field goal.

Since the calendar flipped to October, Santos has been automatic.

That certainly will be comforting to coach Matt Nagy after the occasional descent into madness over the last few years: Playing video of the double doink upon re-convening his team in April of 2019; a nine-kicker tryout in rookie minicamp, with none of those kickers going on to win the Bears’ job; trying to convert fourth-and-long in field goal range with a sub-optimal offense way too many times; a bizarre sequence of events at the end of a particularly brutal loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in which Pineiro missed a 41-yard kick from the left hash and then later said it wasn’t from where he preferred to kick; “watch the Colts game,” etc.

All that is in the past now.

It’s just the rest of this Bears team that’s worrying ahead of their first playoff game since the double doink. 

Can one of the most expensive defenses in the NFL reverse its late-season slide and finally generate the kind of sacks, forced fumbles and interceptions necessary to win in the playoffs? Can the Mitch Trubisky-led offense score enough points to win against the best defense it’s faced? Can Matt Nagy and his coaching staff match wits with Sean Payton?

MORE: Why Bears coaches are biggest hurdle to upsetting Saints

All those questions point to the outcome of Sunday’s trip to the Superdome not being decided by a kick. But if it is, at least we’ll all feel pretty good about Santos nailing it.

 

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