KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs rookie kicker Cairo Santos entered Week 15 on a roll, making 14 straight field goals after starting the season 2-of-4.
Santos’ streak came to an end Sunday after he missed his first field goal attempt from 44 yards. While he came back to make a 41-yard field goal, he then missed an attempt from 47-yards during Sunday’s 31-13 win against the Oakland Raiders.
Missed kicks are growing pains for a rookie kicker, but Santos has been through this already at the start of the season.
And that experience has Santos believing the lessons learned from that experience will assist getting him back on track.
“I bounced back from those when I did that, when I fell off my routine at the beginning of the season,” Santos said. “I know I can bounce back again.”
The Chiefs worked on Santos’ mechanics early in the season, stressing the need to not rush from the time he enters the field from the sideline to when he delivers the kick, like Santos said he felt Sunday.
“The frustrating part for me is the two misses felt like a blur,” Santos said. “When that happens, I fell off my routine.”
Santos said he was surprised with the two misses Sunday based on how he performed during pregame warm-ups.
“I hit the ball so well in warm-ups that I just felt really confident, but I felt rushed,” he said. “It was those things I need to continue to calm down and just take my time.”
And for Santos, fixing the missed kicks and his routine begins when the team returns to work for Week 16 preparations.
“When things like that happen, you can’t just wait until the next game,” he said. “I can’t wait to get to practice and hitting the next kick.”
Santos is now 17-of-21 on field goals through Week 15.
Jamell Fleming drew the start at left cornerback in place of rookie Phillip Gaines, who was inactive with a concussion sustained during Wednesday’s practice.
Fleming was the logical choice to replace Gaines considering the third-year pro supplanted Marcus Cooper in the starting lineup in Week 7.
But a hamstring injury suffered in Week 8 sidelined Fleming until the coaching staff turned to him after Gaines went down.
“They just said, ‘Hey, you know what time it is,’” Fleming said. “I was good. I was healthy this week, my hamstring felt good. I know I can go out there and play.”
Fleming more than made his presence felt, leading the team in tackles (eight solo) and two passes defensed.
While Fleming statistically enjoyed a solid game, the professional in him wasn’t easy on himself when allowed a chance to critique his performance.
“I played all right,” he said. “I just wanted to play a little bit better. I gave up a couple of plays I wish I could have back. I wish I would’ve made the interception on that one on the sideline. I had it in my hands. I just had to hold it a little bit tighter, switch it to my other hand.”
Still, Fleming will take that because Sunday’s win snapped a three-game losing streak and kept the Chiefs’ playoff hopes alive.
“All in all, we won the game,” Fleming said. “We’re back on track. That’s what we needed. We needed that momentum to get started. We win out, we can go to the playoffs.”
CHANGING OF THE GUARD
The first hint of a change arrived during pregame warm-ups when Jeff Linkenbach settled in with the first-team unit at left guard in lieu of Mike McGlynn, who was responsible for three of the five sacks allowed in Week 14.
The official confirmation came when Linkenbach trotted on the field during the team’s first possession of the game. McGlynn, who recently dealt with a quad contusion, stayed behind on the sidelines with a baseball cap adorning his head.
“McGlynn has been battling both legs and I just thought backing him off a little bit would give him a better chance, maybe, of being able to help down the road,” coach Andy Reid said during his postgame media session. “Link(enbach) stepped in; I thought he did a pretty good job in there.”
The offensive line as a whole played well, allowing a single sack after surrendering 13 in the past three games.
Their collective effort drew praise from the player they’re responsible for protecting.
“I thought those guys played great today,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “They played really, really solid. It’s an aggressive defense up front and those guys, when asked, I thought played really well. It starts up front with those guys for sure.”
For his part, Linkenbach was pleased to contribute.
“There are always a couple of plays you want back, win, lose or draw,” he said. “Just excited for the team win. Get back to work and correct mistakes, and do it again next week.”