Chiefs kicker Santos has franchise field goal mark in pocket
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Cairo Santos, the diminutive soccer player from Brazil who learned the rules to American football by playing the "Madden" video game, could have some salty ratings as a kicker when the next version of the game comes out.
Santos set a Chiefs record for field goals in a game by going 7 for 7 in last week’s 36-21 loss in Cincinnati. Not only did he break Ryan Succop’s franchise mark, he came within one of matching the NFL record set by the late Rob Bironas of the Tennessee Titans.
All of which would have been splendid had the Chiefs actually won.
"I wish I would have kicked seven extra points," Santos said.
Still, the fact he knocked through all of his attempts, including a pair from over 50 yards, at least gave Kansas City a chance. The game was 21-15 late in the third quarter.
"Sometimes it’s crazy how a game can happen that way for kickers," he said. "The week before against Green Bay, I didn’t have any field goals, and then the other week you have seven."
Santos moved to the United States when he was in high school, and started kicking because his tiny school was desperate for help. With the help of his host family, his prep coach — and yes, a couple of video games — he managed to get the hang of knocking balls through uprights.
He insists that soccer is still his first love, but football is making him a mint.
After beating out Succop for the starting job a year ago, he weathered some early struggles before gaining confidence late in the season. And so far this year, he has been nearly perfect: 10 of 11 on field goals and 8 for 8 on extra points, despite their longer distance.
Thirteen kickers have already missed a point-after this season. A couple have missed two.
"Cairo, he’s in a groove right now. He’s hitting the ball well," Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub said. "He looks good in practice and he’s carrying that over to the game."
It’s easy to tell when Santos is in the groove. The 5-foot-8 kicker swings his right leg through like a perfect pendulum, and the ball soars end over end through the uprights. It never gets off line, instead cutting through the breeze with nary a wobble.
"When I talk about him hitting the ball solid, that’s what I’m talking about," Toub said. "If he hits it outside in, if it comes off at an angle, the wind will make it go even further. It’s like hitting a golf ball, same thing. So if you hit it smooth and straight and square, it will cut through the wind a lot better. That’s where he’s at right now."
If there is any organization that knows something about successful kickers, it’s the Chiefs. Among their alumni are Jan Stenerud — the only placekicker in the Pro Football Hall of Fame — Morten Andersen, Nick Lowery and Pete Stoyanovich.
Santos is quickly carving his name into that prestigious list.
"You want to keep his feet on the ground," Toub said. "He’s not in the Hall of Fame right now because he made seven field goals, you know what I mean? We lost the game."
Plus, there was that kickoff that Santos sent out of bounds in Cincinnati.
"I did remind him of that," Toub said, grinning. "It’s kind of like, you know — not perfect."