The moment that propelled Bears K Cairo Santos to a record-breaking 2020 season
As his 46-yard field goal slipped to the left and the Bears ‘first practice against the Falcons fell flat thanks to his failure, a familiar fear settled in Cairo Santos’ chest. It might seem like an overreaction for him to fear it would cost him his job, but he had been fired six times in three years – once by the Bears.
The end is always around the corner for kickers, and Santos felt himself sliding towards it. He has thought of everything from his future son to the prospect of finding a new career after football. It’s quite a whirlwind of emotions standing on the sidelines of an NFL game.
It was then, however, that he let go of his anxiety. Sufficient. Santos couldn’t go on living that way. He gave it all up. Maybe this miss would cut him off, and if not this one, maybe another one down the line. So be it.
“I put the pressure on myself that this must be an opportunity to bounce back. How many opportunities will I continue to get? “He said on Friday after training. “I thought about [getting cut by] the Bucs, the Titans, so here we go, I missed a kick in Atlanta.
“I just sort of accepted it. I started playing a little looser and put it all in God’s hands and played one move at a time and here we are. It’s just humiliating to go through this in the middle of a game and come to terms with it and sort of it’s out of my hands. Let me go, one shot at a time.
He scored all baskets the rest of the season.
Santos shot up 93.8% to finish seventh in the NFL and will look to continue his streak of 27 straight streaks this season. Both of those numbers are franchise records, and it ended years of turmoil for the Bears. They signed him for a three-year, $ 9 million contract extension in March.
A year ago, he only got this chance because Eddy Pineiro suffered a groin injury in the preseason. Santos missed four field goals for the Titans in an October 2019 loss, was cut the next day and went unsigned for more than 10 months before the Bears called.
Now everything is going well for Santos. His son was born in November and by then he was firmly entrenched in the Bears kicker. Now he has career stability, or as much as a kicker can realistically hope to have, after years of bouncing back.
“It’s a blessing – something I have prayed for for a long time,” he said. “I was already in this mode of transition perhaps towards a father and a second career. Then I had a chance here.
There is genuine gratitude in his voice when he talks about the Bears, but that feeling is absolutely mutual. It’s hard to say who saved who.
Santos, 29, is their fifth kicker since Robbie Gould’s exit shortly before the 2016 season. They went through a circus search after cutting Parkey and still weren’t sure if they had their answer until the second season of Pineiro. It seemed ridiculous that they turned to Santos after his career spiraled.
But they got it right. The Bears and Santos were just what the other needed.