Devin Hester is such a great punt-returner that an entire punt team, sans the punter, chased after Hester, even though he didn’t have the ball.
“Not only is his production something you have to deal with, the threat of his production is something you have to deal with,” Packers Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum told reporters on Monday, as they questioned Slocum as to how the Bears nearly pulled to within a field goal of the Packers with about a minute to play in Sunday’s game.
Protecting a 27-17 with 1:09 to play and at the Bears' 46-yard line, Packers punter Tim Masthay angled a punt toward the left corner of the field. Hester, the Bears’ dynamic return man, ran toward the opposite side of the field while acting as though he was going to field the ball, which caused the Packers’ coverage team to run toward Hester, even though they knew the punt was supposed to be toward the left side.
The Bears’ Johnny Knox, who was lined up as a blocker on the Packers’ gunner to the Packers’ left, peeled back, fielded the punt and ran 89 yards untouched for an apparent touchdown. Fortunately, for the Packers, a holding call nullified the play. Slocum said a Bears player grabbed Jarrett Bush’s shoulder.
“I thought it was very well-executed,” Slocum said of the play, which he said he had seen attempted once before in the NFL. “We should have had someone right in the face of the catch. That was pretty seamless in the way they executed it.”
It was also the only blemish in an otherwise strong performance by Packers special teams on Sunday. Hester was held in check; meanwhile, Packers rookie return man Randall Cobb nearly went the distance twice on punt returns.
Cobb, who already has a NFL record-tying 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown this season, returned five punts for 79 yards, with a long of 17 yards and another for 12 yards.
“We had two explosive returns and need to score touchdowns on those plays. It’s always that last man. I thought Randall did a great job of getting north and south on those explosive returns,” Slocum said.
The Bears’ trick return, of course, was still gnawing at Slocum on Monday. Did Hester signal for a fair catch? Knox would not have been permitted to advance the football had Hester signaled for a fair catch.
“I’ve got the TV copy. I’ll review that,” Slocum said.
The Packers will, no doubt, remember the play for future reference. Additional coverage - Sept. 26