By now, Cairo Santos has seen about all the photos and videos and memes and GIFs of his flawed masterpiece of a field goal: the 34-yard “bank shot” he playfully insists he called to upend the Broncos 30-27 on Sunday in Denver.
He laughs at one visual that captures him at a standstill staring intently at the ball as it soars toward the left upright, calling the pose his version of “the mannequin challenge” even while acknowledging “my heart stopped a little bit” until he was sure it was good.
Santos watches with amusement as a Chiefs staff member shows him a replay doctored with music from “Titanic,” and you can bet the Brazil native has seen the one with the soundtrack in Portuguese.
Then there’s the iconic photo taken by The Star’s David Eulitt that freezes Santos celebrating juxtaposed with holder Dustin Colquitt sagging in belief the kick had gone awry.
“It’s priceless,” Santos said Wednesday at the first media availability of Chiefs players since the game. “It’s describing one of the most amazing moments that we had together … The world stopped for a split second there for everybody.”
For no one more memorably than Colquitt, who on Wednesday said he wished he could’ve seen the Broncos’ mascot throwing itself to the ground behind the goalpost, believing the trajectory of the ricochet had been between the uprights.
“That would have been a dead giveaway,” said Colquitt, suddenly taking a knee and pantomiming his part of the play. “But the linemen were all in the way.”
As Colquitt began to explain what he was seeing, the play that has taken on a life of its own flashed on a TV in the background: “Speak of the devil — it’s EVERYwhere,” he said.
As the ball went up and Santos followed through, Colquitt initially thought he had hit it “brilliantly.”
Especially knowing that Santos had to lean left some because of the wind on a gusty night.
And because he was anticipating a heavy rush right from a team that had blocked three kicks this season, including a point-after it converted it into two points to beat the Saints 25-23 in its last game.
In fact, replay suggests that if Santos had gone down the middle the kick may have been blocked by hard-charging defender Aqib Talib.
Even so, when Colquitt heard the ball clang off the left upright, he bowed his head assuming it missed and that the overtime game would end in a tie.
“I think 96 percent of all percentages are made up on the spot,” he said, smiling, “but I think probably 96 percent of all kicks that hit an upright don’t go in.”
The percentage seemed even higher when he saw two Chiefs blockers, Eric Fisher and Anthony Sherman, suddenly put their hands to their heads in dejection.
Then, with his head still down, Colquitt heard Travis Kelce screaming, “It went in! It went in!”
It took awhile, which is to say a few seconds, but a revived Colquitt caught up to Santos in the delirious celebration and admitted he thought he’d missed.
“I don’t know when Dustin joined the party,” Santos said, smiling, “but he was definitely late to the party.”
With the benefit of hindsight, Colquitt figures Santos actually put it about where he wanted to if accounting for the wind and the rush and his history.
“I’m glad he played soccer all his life, because in soccer people take pride in hitting the inside of the post and letting the ball chase all the way across the net,” Colquitt said. “It happens all the time. Guys actually aim for that.”
Santos, though, wasn’t aiming for that.
And if he were, he’d tell you he could probably hit the goalpost and have it go through about one time in 100.
The really funny thing about all this improbability and drama, though, is that Santos and Colquitt each describe the play itself as … routine.
“It was just the aftermath that wasn’t,” Colquitt said.
So “routine” was their mindset as they took the field for what was potentially Santos’ second walk-off game-winner in three weeks.
Saying that and feeling that, of course, are two different things. And Santos smiled at the idea that he had some sort of special antidote for nerves or adrenalin:
“If you could find that secret,” he said, his voice trailing off …
But, in fact, like any high-performance athlete must have, he has his own prescription, one that kept him from hearing the crowd, or feeling his heart beat, or focusing on the snap or the hold or the rush.
Instead, he visualized the ball going through — albeit not the way it did — and thought about routine and muscle memory and trust and slowing himself down.
When he’s missed big kicks in the past, after all, Santos understands it wasn’t because he suddenly just couldn’t do it or had a confidence issue.
He applied logic instead of emotion.
It was because he let himself get out of rhythm or speeded up.
“I know that I just rushed those moments. I kicked it (and missed) and got to the sideline and it felt like a blur,” he said. “It felt like that moment never happened because it was so fast, like a blink of an eye.”
“So I learned to slow down.”
So that’s what he did on Sunday night, too.
As always, he stood back as Colquitt counted down the clock aloud for him. He looked at the uprights and reminded himself it’s just another kick.
With faith in the preparation and fixed concentration, his mind was cleared of any concerns about blocking and the snap and the hold.
“‘Routine, routine, slow down and trust,’ ” he told himself.
Then he locked eyes with Colquitt and gave him a nod.
“At that moment, I’m just looking at his hands,” he said. “And when the hands come up to catch the ball, that’s when I leave and get ready to kick. …
“I felt like I hit it perfect.”
In a sense, of course, he did, especially if you count style points … or lack thereof.
That’s why there was such ecstasy in the moment — and why Santos had an “overwhelming” number of texts and emails from family and friends in Brazil.
Some, he said, will “keep me humble.”
After all, they pointed out that perhaps the ball ought to have been kicked in a less worrisome spot.
Then again, a more routine kick wouldn’t have made for such an unforgettable ending to the riveting game.
Like a movie with a happy ending, Santos said.
“Like icing,” Colquitt said, laughing and adding, “Too much icing.”