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updated: 11/20/2017 4:14 PM

Bears switch kickers, look for answers in close games

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  • Chicago Bears kicker Connor Barth, right, bows his head as teammates Mitch Unrein and Daniel Brown watch Detroit Lions strong safety Don Carey, front left, celebrate a missed field goal with only seconds left in regulation of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, in Chicago. (John Starks/Daily Herald via AP)

    Chicago Bears kicker Connor Barth, right, bows his head as teammates Mitch Unrein and Daniel Brown watch Detroit Lions strong safety Don Carey, front left, celebrate a missed field goal with only seconds left in regulation of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, in Chicago. (John Starks/Daily Herald via AP)
    Associated Press

  • Detroit Lions strong safety Don Carey (26) celebrates after Chicago Bears kicker Connor Barth, right, missed a field goal with only seconds remaining in an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, in Chicago. (John Starks/Daily Herald via AP)

    Detroit Lions strong safety Don Carey (26) celebrates after Chicago Bears kicker Connor Barth, right, missed a field goal with only seconds remaining in an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, in Chicago. (John Starks/Daily Herald via AP)
    Associated Press

  • Chicago Bears kicker Connor Barth (4) reacts after missing the field goal during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, in Chicago.

    Chicago Bears kicker Connor Barth (4) reacts after missing the field goal during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, in Chicago.
    Associated Press

  • Trainers check on Chicago Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (94) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, in Chicago.

    Trainers check on Chicago Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (94) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, in Chicago.
    Associated Press

 
 

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears seem caught in a downward spiral following three straight near-misses.

They took measures Monday to correct problems in close games by waiving kicker Connor Barth after he missed a late 46-yard field goal in Sunday's 27-24 loss to Detroit, then signed former Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos.

"It wasn't going great, it wasn't just yesterday's kick," coach John Fox said about Barth's performances.

Barth was 11 for 16 this season, with all his misses coming from 40 yards or beyond. His 40-yarder against Baltimore in overtime delivered the Bears a 27-24 victory. Barth, a nine-year veteran, was 29 for 39 the last two seasons.

"Those four misses - five yesterday - you know, you feel it," Fox said. "He sensed it. He understands. It's never easy making those changes."

Santos had been given a tryout last week by the Bears, and was an undrafted free agent from Tulane who signed with the Chiefs in 2014. The Chiefs signed him again to a one-year deal in March, but put him on injured reserve due to a groin strain, then cut him with an injury settlement after Harrison Butker established himself as a capable replacement.

Santos had been 3 for 3 on field goals this season with the Chiefs before his injury, and in four seasons with the Chiefs was 89 for 105. He was 125 for 130 on extra points.

"He's been pretty accurate," Fox said. "He gets pretty good lift on the ball. I think his leg strength he's developed. He has good hang time on his kickoffs.

"I'd say the key is he's an accomplished kicker in the National Football League."

The kicking problems aren't the only troubles facing the Bears. They lost one of their top young players when outside linebacker Leonard Floyd left Sunday's defeat in the fourth quarter with a knee injury. Floyd left the field on a cart, but on Monday Fox said the injury did not appear to be a torn anterior cruciate ligament, as was first believed. Season-ending injured reserve hasn't been ruled out, however.

"I think all of those options are available," Fox said. "Again, we're still evaluating it. They have different opinions as far as doctors."

Floyd has 5 ½ sacks after making seven as a rookie season last year.

"That's big," inside linebacker Christian Jones said. "He's one of our guys that we love to have out there and he makes big plays for us. So it's obviously going to hurt not having him out there.

"But it's the NFL. Guys get hurt. We're going to have to adjust."

The Bears already were without outside linebacker Willie Young, another strong outside pass rusher. He went on injured reserve after four games with a triceps injury.

Isaiah Irving will join Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho now in an outside linebacker rotation. A rookie, Irving's participation has been limited largely to special teams in the five games he's played.

"He's a guy obviously we had in the system and he's been working," Fox said. "He'll get more opportunities moving forward."

Another option could be moving Jones back out outside to rush the passer, where he started out playing three years ago.

"Whatever happens, I'll be ready for it," Jones said. "On the ball (outside) things happen right away. You've got to be ready. Your hands have got to be ready to shoot. Those guys are big down there."

The Bears have lost five times by eight points or less, and had chances to tie or win at the end of each of those.

Guard Josh Sitton said getting over the hump is the key in the NFL, and won't be easier regardless of personnel until they succeed a few times.

"Once you do it a couple times you kind of get that feeling," Sitton said. "You get the confidence that the guy next to you is going to do it at the end of the game.

"The NFL comes down to one score most of the time. You've got to be able to win it at the end. We'll continue to grow and once we get that confidence we'll be able to do some good things."

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