Chicago Bears kicker Cairo Santos makes key change to his extra-point routine

Chicago Bears place kicker Cairo Santos gestures sarcastically after making an extra point having missed a previous kick during their game against the Eagles Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

LAKE FOREST – Early in Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Cairo Santos lined up on the right hash for an extra point following running back David Montgomery’s 9-yard touchdown run. The kick sailed wide left.

For Santos, this has become a troubling theme. It marked his fifth missed extra point this season. Over the previous two seasons as a member of the Bears in 2020 and 2021, Santos went 63-for-65 on extra points with only one miss each season.

This year, he is 24-for-29. For a 33-yard kick that is supposed to be nearly automatic for NFL kickers, it’s somewhat baffling.

On his next extra-point attempt after the miss on Sunday against the Eagles, Santos lined up smack dab in the middle of the hashes. It’s a small change, but a notable one. The 31-year-old Santos has been kicking his extra points from the right hash ever since the NFL moved the extra point kick back 13 yards in 2015.

“It was the hash I liked the most,” Santos said Wednesday at Halas Hall. “I feel like once I entered the extra point routine, the process of setting up and kicking that kick from the right hash, it just became really repetitive. I just feel like, right now, the ball was not shooting where I’m aiming, compared to the other kicks from other hashes, other spots on the field. So I just felt like I needed some change in that visual to line up the kick from a different angle.”

Making the adjustment in-game paid off. He made his next two extra points from between the hashes during the 25-20 loss against the Eagles.

Most kickers kick their extra points from the same spot every time. Some like the right or left hashes, others like it right down the middle.

For Santos, the extra-point issues have come out of nowhere. He has been a good field-goal kicker since joining the Bears. He set a team record in 2020, making 93.8% of his field-goal tries. He signed a three-year, $9 million contract extension with the Bears following the 2020 season.

The issues this year go back to Week 1, when Santos missed two extra points in the monsoon win over the San Francisco 49ers. It’s hard to blame him for those in the wet conditions. He missed another one in Week 10 against Detroit and another in Week 13 against the Packers before missing for the fifth time on Sunday.

Even with the missed extra points, Santos has been very good on field goals. He has made 18-of-20 tries, including four from 50 yards and beyond.

“It’s always hard not to overthink, try to correct a bunch of stuff,” Santos said. “You just don’t have time to work on a lot of stuff this late in the year. It’s just kind of overcoming this adversity and I’m looking forward the challenge that now kicking in the middle will present.”

Saturday’s game might be the toughest one yet to kick in. Winds in Chicago are expected to be over 20 miles per our with gusts as high as 40 mph. Soldier Field is already a tough place to kick on a normal December day.

The ball doesn’t fly as far in colder temperatures. It comes off the foot like a rock compared to when kicked in warmer temperatures. Santos said his range last week against the Eagles was only 45 yards. Determining that range comes down to how far the ball is flying on the morning of the game.

“Ultimately, everything is about what pregame warm up is going to be,” Santos said. “I can prepare all week and really the true preparation is going to be Sunday’s warm up.”

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.