Chicago Bears v Tennessee Titans
Devin Hester was close.
Oh, so close.
Seemingly lost in all the commotion Sunday was Hester’s best punt return of the season.
Hester returned a line-drive punt from Brett Kern 44 yards to the Titans’ 8, setting up Matt Forte’s touchdown run. Kern was able to slow Hester as Jamie Harper made the tackle and prevented him from ending his TD-return drought.
Nonetheless, it was Hester’s longest punt return in 2012. He entered the game averaging 7.3 yards. Hester remains one touchdown shy of tying Deion Sanders for the most combined return TDs.
“[It was] very important for Devin to get off and the rest of the group,” coach Lovie Smith said Monday. “We’ve been close a couple of times. We feel like we’ve had a couple of opportunities where we could’ve broken a big one, but it’s just a matter of time with Devin Hester before we would be able to do it.”
On Hester’s 44-yard return, the Bears used two blockers on each of the Titans’ gunners. Hester last returned a punt for a touchdown Nov. 13, 2011, against the Lions.
Smith, though, said Hester’s history definitely played a role in a blocked punt.
“No doubt it does,” Smith said. “Just having Devin back there does so much, period. You look last week, the field position we were able to get [when the Panthers used squib kicks]. Guys worrying about getting down there and covering as opposed to protecting, all of that comes into play when you have the greatest returner of all time back there.”
Jay wants more
During his weekly radio show on WMVP-AM (1000), quarterback Jay Cutler was adamant that the offense needed to improve, lamenting its woes in the red zone against the Titans and its struggles early in games.
“We’ve got to raise our game up to [the defense’s] level because they’re playing lights-out football,” said Cutler, who was 19-for-26 for 229 yards and three touchdowns. “I don’t want it to come back on the offense [and have someone say], ‘Hey, you didn’t win a Super Bowl. You didn’t go this far because the offense was lacking.’ I don’t want to have to look the defensive guys in the eyes next year and be like, ‘Hey, sorry we couldn’t get it done for you guys.’ Because that’s a Super Bowl-caliber defense we have.’’
Smith said that “injury-wise we didn’t have a lot” against the Titans despite seeing some players get banged up.
“We had a couple of guys who went down [such as] Israel Idonije,” Smith said. “Henry Melton’s back was hurting him a little bit. But they were able to finish the game.
“Alshon Jeffery continues to get better. I don’t know what his status will be this week, but we’re getting closer as each day goes by.”