LAKE FOREST – One of the biggest storylines of the Matt Nagy era of the Bears isn’t even one anymore.
They have Cairo Santos to thank for that.
After Cody Parkey’s struggles in 2018, the “Double-Doink” in the Wild Card game, multiple kicker tryouts in the 2019 offseason, then an injury to Eddy Pineiro, the Bears haven’t had to worry much about the kicker position.
Signed after Pineiro’s groin injury, which has kept him out this season, Santos has made the most of a new opportunity in the seventh year of his career. He’s hit 21-of-23 field goal attempts and has made all of one of his 28 extra point attempts.
That includes 18 consecutive kicks made dating back to Week 3 against the Falcons, when he missed a field goal on the team’s first drive. Santos would hit another one later in the game and hasn’t missed since, including two field goals over 50 yards.
“It’s certainly been nice,” said Nagy of Santos’ consistent performance. “We’re not talking about it a lot, which has been good.”
This has been a nice change of pace for Santos, who was all over the place from 2017-2019 after dealing with a groin injury. In those three seasons, he played with five different teams, including the Bears for two games in 2017, but now he’s finally settled in here in Chicago.
A strong finish in the final three games and maybe the postseason if the Bears could get there could give Santos a permanent home with the Bears.
“It’s been a goal to have stability, even if every year I always feel I’ll have to keep proving myself and keeping being a better kicker every year. So it’s been something I’ve been working towards, and had some setbacks with the injury and everything. So everytime I get to be with a team team, that’s the goal to keep playing, keeping playing my dream.
“So I’ll just continue to do what I can.”
OUT OF THEIR SLUMP?
One thing that seems back to normal is the Bears’ defense, who entered their biggest slump in the last three years in losses to the Packers and Lions.
In each game they allowed over 30 points, which has been a rarity for a unit that’s been among the best in the NFL since the days of Vic Fangio. Since 2017, it was just the second time they’d allowed a team to score 30 or more points in back-to-back weeks.
But against Deshaun Watson and the Texans, the unit looked more like itself, registering seven sacks, two turnovers, and a safety in a dominating win over Houston.
That’s the kind of performance that was a factor in Tashaun Gipson signing with the Bears this offseason, and he credits the turnaround to the play of the front seven.
“Those guys have found their stride. Whatever slump defensively that we may have been in, I think they turned the page, and when the rush and cover do that collectively together, it’s what Chicago football, Chicago defense is all about,” said Gipson. “Those guys are catching their stride at the perfect time.”
STAT OF THE WEEK: 3
The number of times the Bears have scored 30 points in back-to-back games since the start of the 2014 season, including the last two weeks.