Bears tight end Cole Kmet hadn't taken a snap under center since high school when he dabbled with the quarterback position as a junior and senior at Saint Viator in Arlington Heights. But Sunday against the Dolphins, Kmet relived those days, executing a "QB sneak" on third-and-1 in the middle of the first quarter.
While the main goal of catching Miami's defense by surprise was achieved as Kmet pushed forward for the 1-yard gain, keeping quarterback Justin Fields from taking an extra hit was a bonus.
"Now I realize what Justin goes through on those sneaks," Kmet said. "I mean, you get popped on those things. So, anytime you can take some hits off for Justin in those situations, I think that's a good thing as well."
Kmet did just about everything for the offense Sunday. Right before the sneak, he lined up on the right side then took a jet sweep eight yards to the left on second-and-9.
"That was great," Kmet said. "Getting me on the edge on some smaller guys, knocking it forward, so I know coach liked that a lot. So just ways to kind of get a big body on a smaller dude and kind of get me with a full head of steam going forward. [Fullback] Khari [Blasingame] had a great block there if you look at it, handles the 9-tech really well and then works up to a backer and gets me on the edge. So yeah, just another well-executed play, for sure."
Later in that same drive, Kmet scored his first of two touchdowns, which put the Bears up 10-7.
On first-and-10 from the 18, Fields successfully faked a handoff to running back Khalil Herbert then hit Kmet in the right flat. The tight end turned up field, received a block from receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and ran about 12 yards into the end zone.
"I mean that's a play we've been really working from back to OTAs," Kmet said. "And then when you're able to run the ball—we've been able to run the ball the past couple weeks— you're able to get good run sell. And Justin obviously with a great fake there and then 'EQ' just a great block to get me in the end zone. So just well executed all around."
Through the first seven weeks of Kmet's third NFL season, he didn't score a touchdown and averaged less than two catches a game. In the last two games, the tight end has caught three touchdowns and most recently recorded five catches on six targets for 41 yards.
His second touchdown reception Sunday came in a crucial moment when the Bears trailed by two scores early in the fourth quarter. On first-and-goal from the 4, Fields faked another handoff then dropped back and hit Kmet, who was a couple strides in front of his defender, on the right side as he crossed the goal line. Two plays before the TD, Kmet turned a short pass from Fields into a first down as he ran a defender over to gain an extra five yards.
Kmet believes his increased productivity stems from the offense finding consistency, but the recent success is also a product of the tight end's growth from last season to now.
"I still think that if I look at myself last year, and I know people don't love talking about the run game stuff, but my run-game blocking has been great this year and I've been really proud of what I have been doing on film in that regard," Kmet said. "My separation on routes has been great. Not all the time has it really worked out where we have been able to hit it for whatever reason, but that has been going well for me. I think at the end of the day, as we've been getting more comfortable in this offense, you can see guys starting to execute better in the red zone and things like that."
While the Bears offense struggled at moments in the beginning of the season, Kmet said the unit remained confident and kept building upon it week after week.
Now, the group is experiencing the payoff of being patient with the process. For Kmet, that has manifested into creative play designs and different opportunities as well as a new level of comfortability with the offense.
"Obviously in the red zone being used like that and being used off of run action and all that stuff, getting handoffs, playing quarterback for a play, definitely unique," Kmet said. "And I think we've been figuring this thing out dating back to OTAs and we're still continuing to figure this thing out with everybody involved, figuring our strengths out and things of that nature. So yeah, lot of fun [Sunday] for the offense, and obviously we've gotta finish it out there at the end, but a lot of creative things going on for sure."