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SportsMonday: Devin Hester And Matt Forte More Ridiculous Than A Bears Defense That Allowed 543 Yards
Devin Hester hesitated early in his big kickoff return in the first half Sunday against Carolina, and a few minutes later he stumbled after a few steps when he took a punt all the way back for a touchdown. Both actions served to concentrate the coverage team down the middle.
And then, in each case, he made what will always be his signature move: He briefly ran laterally before - at just the right instant - cutting up the field and into daylight.
Knowing the exact split-second to make that move has always been Hester's genius. And when that genius is combined with glorious acceleration - he goes from 0 to 60 almost as fast as a 2006 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 - he makes good plays great.
Hester often needs just one block as he hits top speed in the danger zone between the first line of defense and the final few stragglers between him and points. And he needs someone to cut off the kicker or anyone else who might have found a way to get an angle on him as the action moves to just inside a sideline. That didn't happen on the kickoff return, but after he took the punt back the other way, his path opened wide before him and there was no stopping the greatest return man in NFL history.
It turned out that on that play the critical moment was when Hester broke a tackle as he made that first cut up the field.
The Bears would efficiently convert the field position earned by the first big return into Matt Forte's 17-yard touchdown run. When Hester finished the deal himself on the punt return, he extended his own record to 15 career kick returns for touchdowns including a new record 11 punts hustled back for points.
And at the end of the scoring scamper, Bear radio play-by-play man Jeff Joniak busted out what will always be his signature line: "Devin Hester. You are ri-dic-ulous!"
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Later in the game, Hester showed his toughness. He went high in the air trying to haul in a deep out, had it knocked out of his hands by a defensive back and then came down hard. He tried to break his fall a bit with his elbow and it wasn't surprising when he exited the field with his left arm hanging limp. Quarterbacks are the players most often seen extending their elbows that way to try to ease the impact with the turf but what it ends up doing is separating their shoulders.
* * *
Hester's Postgame Remarks:
As for the rest of the game, these Bears are nothing if not responsive. It may take a while, but if fans demand more of a running game, the Bears will give them a running game. It's too bad there can't be a bit more of a passing game mixed in with the run but if it has to be one or the other, the run game is preferable, especially until the Bears somehow manage to track down a No. 1 receiver.
In order for Lovie Smith's defense to really click, especially with multi-Pro Bowl linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs manning the short zones, the Bears need just one safety who really knows what's going on. He can make the right calls, play a strong deep zone and come up and make a tackle every once in a while to prevent an eight-yard gain from becoming (at least) 28.
And when Chris Harris is out injured, as he was for the third straight week Sunday, they don't have that guy. Sean Jensen pointed out in the Sun-Times on Sunday that Harris is an important cog in the Bear defense but he is even more than that.
Brandon Meriweather probably won't ever be that safety who makes the calls (that was a brutal breakdown on the huge pass to Steve Smith at the end of the first quarter on Sunday). But given the way he flies around the secondary looking to take someone's head off (despite the big, new rule discouraging that sort of behavior), he can be a very important player for the Bears. It wasn't a coincidence Panther receivers other than the ridiculous Steve Smith were dropping balls right and left in the third and fourth quarters.
Analyst Brian Billick was surprised when the Bears went for it on fourth down near midfield during their field goal drive in the fourth quarter. Had he been watching the Bears play defense? Lovie Smith knew his team couldn't afford to go right back on D at that point so he made the call to go for it and the left side of the line came through, opening a significant hole for Forte to convert the first down.
Lost in the Hester-Forte shuffle: Bears defense allows 543 yards!
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