Why Bears kicker Cairo Santos views Soldier Field as weapon for his game

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Alex Shapiro
·3 min read
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How Soldier Field helped Cairo Santos get his groove back originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

When the Bears and Cairo Santos agreed to a deal that would tie the kicker to Chicago through 2023, it was truly a win-win scenario. The Bears finally got an answer to their kicking question, which has persisted since the team cut Robbie Gould before the 2016 season. Santos got stability after bouncing between six teams in four seasons, including two stints with the Bears.

But this deal also ties Santos to one of the toughest stadiums to kick in the NFL: Soldier Field.

“I remember having this conversation with Pat O'Donnell, and he's someone I always try to listen to for advice on Soldier for the experience he's had,” Santos said. “There's a day that it was playing really tough and he said ‘Some days you step in here and you have to respect the place and say, Soldier you won today but you're not going to win tomorrow.' You can be kicking so well but the wind just kind of does it's thing. I think the grass plays tough too and you kind of have to adjust to that.”

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That advice, learning to “respect the place” helped Santos find success again after struggling with injuries and inconsistency from 2017-19. It kept him focused, grounded and prevented him from becoming overconfident at any point in the season.

“Every day that I stepped at Halas Hall or Soldier Field, I had to respect what Chicago is to be a kicker, and how hard that place is. That helped me just settle in… So it was more of a feeling thing, of like, step in that place and take every day as a challenge to thrive and win the day.

“It is a hard place to kick, but I think the challenge of kicking there and having the success that I was able to have gives me the confidence and assurance. It’s going to allow me to stay focused every single day to succeed and I’ll get comfortable, which is important for you to just stay mentally sharp.

“Just having that place to use it as a weapon to kind of sharpen your game.”

Santos says the opportunity to kick regularly at Soldier Field made him feel more comfortable on the road too. Imagine training for a marathon every day in 90 degree weather, then actually running the race on a beautiful 65-degree day. It’d be smooth sailing after practicing in such tough conditions.

“You feel a tiny breeze and you see kickers trying to play the wind too much, and I’m like, ‘This is an indoor game compared to what I’m used to.’ So that allowed me to succeed away, too.

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“The winds that I felt, it wasn't going through my mind. It was just, 'Aim the ball down the middle and hit it the way you always hit.' And just stay true. I was hitting lots of balls down the middle so it was fun.”

It was fun for anyone watching, as well — except for opposing teams of course. After missing a field goal on the opening drive in Week 3, Santos went on a tear, hitting 27 consecutive field goals. That streak included a game-winner against the Buccaneers, a career-high 55-yarder against the Panthers and a 51-yarder to force overtime against the Saints. By season’s end, Santos set two Bears records, as well. One with that 27-consecutive field goal streak, and another for hitting 93.8% of his field goal attempts over the entire season.

So after waxing poetic on how kicking in Chicago has helped him, is it fair to say Santos may actually like kicking at Soldier Field?

“It's crazy to say but it's fair to say as well.”