Devin Hester returned kicks for the first time this season, and made the most of his opportunity. Hester totaled 100 yards on two kick returns, including a 68-yard return that would lead to a Robbie Gould field goal in the third quarter. Tack on two punt returns for 47 yards and Hester would end the day with 147 total return yards. The second of Hester’s punt returns was good for 42 yards, the longest punt return allowed by the Vikings this season.
Hester dashed and slashed through would-be Vikings tacklers in a frenzy that had the rabid Soldier Field crowd on their feet. "I give all of the credit to my teammates," Hester said. "Those other ten guys did a great job out there. Everything just seemed so easy today. Guys just went out and busted their tails and got on their guys and gave me an opportunity to find holes.”
Fellow Bears return man Danieal Manning believes Hester caught the Vikings off guard. "We knew during practice," Manning said of Hester returning kicks. "They said we were going to rotate, me and Devin, but it was just a surprise because the Vikings hadn't seen Devin return kickoffs.
"Everybody plays each returner differently, so I'm quite sure it surprised them. Some of the returns we did, they weren't expecting."
Even though Hester was up to his usual wizardry with his spectacular returns, he also gave the Bears an early 14-10 lead on offense with a 19-yard first-quarter touchdown reception from Quarterback Jay Cutler. It was the tenth touchdown reception of Hester’s career.
Hester is hopeful that his expanded role will lead to more opportunities. "At one point I really tried to focus on receiver," he said. "I felt like I had the return game mastered and I wanted to really focus on receiver. Now that I'm feeling a little more comfortable at receiver, I can start focusing on returns [again] as well, maybe give me a chance to study them both.”
Bears fans couldn’t agree more, as it’s clear that no matter where Hester plays on the field, good things happen. It remains to be seen if Hester will continue to return kicks as well as punts, but based on his impact during Sunday’s victory, one would think it will be difficult to deny him the opportunity.
Since Hester scored on two punt returns in a four-game span, opposing punters have punted away from him. Hester remains one return touchdown short of owning the NFL record for most in a career. If he continues to return kicks, it will be only a matter of time before he takes sole ownership of the record.
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