A week after catching a pair of touchdown passes versus the Dolphins – the first multiple-score game of his career – Bears tight end Cole Kmet reached the end zone two more times Sunday against the Lions while recording four receptions for 74 yards.
Both of his TDs came within five minutes of each other, helping the Bears generate a 24-10 lead with 2:43 left in the third quarter. The latter score, a 50-yarder, came on second-and-1 when quarterback Justin Fields faked a handoff to running back Khalil Herbert, rolled left then hit a wide open Kmet around the 17-yard line. The tight end jogged into the end zone easily for the score.
While the play looked effortless on Sunday, Fields and Kmet struggled to get it right last week, hanging back after practice to work on timing and execution, but never connecting partially due to 20 mile-per-hour winds.
"We had it in a walkthrough rep, so we didn't have a live rep in practice with it, so we were like 'let's get this after practice,'" Kmet said. "So I run one, wind kinda takes it. I run two, I didn't really run it right. I run three and wind takes off again. I run another one and it's like 'Alright, I can't be doing all these routes,' so we scratched it and we're like, 'We'll get the one in the game,' and it worked out that way so it was pretty cool."
The pair had no trouble connecting in a live situation, but elements almost prevented the score again. While no Lions defender was within 10 yards of Kmet, making for a simple catch, he briefly lost Fields' lofted pass in the sun.
"The sun at that time was right in that vision," Kmet said. "So I lost it for a couple seconds and was like, 'Where's this thing at?' There's slight shade coming in and you kinda see it peak through the sun. My baseball days playing centerfield probably helped out in that situation."
The play prior to Kmet's score was a similar style with the same 13 personnel package (one running back and three tight ends), except Fields handed it off to Herbert for a 9-yard gain.
Coach Matt Eberflus said they have "maybe 15 ways to run those types of plays with different looks and different motions," causing confusion for the defense. So when Fields faked the handoff then rolled out on the ensuing play, too many Lions defenders followed him, allowing Kmet to sneak through uncovered.
"I think it just set up nice," Kmet said. "We obviously saw throughout the game that they were overplaying a little bit. We run a lot of those movements with Justin. Justin really likes those types of pass plays, get him out of the pocket. I just was able to kind of nod the safety over a little bit and then come flat across his face, and it turned out to be a big play."
Kmet's first touchdown Sunday was another play the offense had been working on for a few weeks. The key for Kmet on the option play was selling the run block to "eat up space on (the defender) and make him make a quick decision."
The tight end executed it perfectly on first-and-goal from the 6-yard line and slipped past Lions safety Kerby Joseph before leaping to haul in Fields' pass near the back of the end zone.
Despite enduring a touchdown drought from Dec. 6, 2020, to Oct. 30, 2022, when he scored in Dallas, Kmet is now tied for second in the NFL for most TDs by a tight end this season. Baltimore's Mark Andrews also has five scores while Kansas City's Travis Kelce leads the league with eight touchdowns.
Kmet said his progression into a playmaker throughout this season comes down to opportunity and execution. It's also a result of the team establishing a dynamic and unpredictable offense behind Fields.
"I'm the one on the receiving end as it's happened in the past three weeks," Kmet said. "Being able to have a guy like Justin, like you don't know run or pass, that's a big deal for me. All the blocking I do in-line and being able to release off of that and do some things kind of off of the runs we have, you know, have really helped me out a lot too. And then you just get good matchups against guys. You know I'm 6'6" going up against a DB body. That's usually going to turn out pretty well, I think."