Monday night’s win for the Chicago Bears was important for many reasons. It of course advances their quest for the top spot in the NFC, which now appears to be a lock, it clinches a first-round bye and a divisional home game at Soldier Field, and it was a big game for Rex Grossman, who had a much better showing than a week ago vs the Vikings. While all of that is great for Chicago, one has to wonder if come crunch time they will be able to get one special play out of that one special player – Devin Hester.
Hester has become this years version of Dante Hall, Eric Metcalf, Darrell Green, or Mel Gray. He is a player that once you kick the ball to him, you had better hold your breath, because you never know if he is going to take it back to the house. Monday night vs the Rams Hester not only took one back, but two, and for the season has six returns for touchdowns. As teams keep kicking to Hester, he keeps returning, which brings up some pretty interesting thoughts as the Bears start to look ahead to the playoffs.
The first of which is: can Hester take one back when the pressure is on? Teams that rely on special teams in the playoffs for points rarely win. Look at the Chiefs in 2003, when Dante Hall had an outstanding year taking back a few for scores, but against the Colts at Arrowhead when the pressure was on, he was unable to do it, and the Chiefs lost. On the other hand, teams that don’t normally get points on special teams and do in the playoffs usually win. The 2001 AFC Championship game in Pittsburgh was a perfect example. Troy Brown took back a punt for a score, and the Pats also blocked a field goal and returned it for a score. Result – Pats win and eventually top the Rams in the Super Bowl.
So while Hester and the Bears continue to high step their way to returns now, it would behoove them to continue to work on the offense as the playoffs approach. It was huge for Rex Grossman to have a solid game Monday night. 13-for-23 for 200 yards, two TD’s and no sacks and no picks might not seem like a monster game, but with the way he had been playing before Monday night, fans in Chicago can take a deep breath and relax for at least one week. The disturbing thing about Grossman is that his worst games have come at home, and that is where the Bears will be for the playoffs.
Chicago still has the mix needed to make it to Miami. Their defense is very good, the special teams is outstanding, and the offense can get it done. We all thought those same things a season ago though, and look at what the Panthers were able to do in the NFC Divisional playoff game at Soldier Field. If the Bears are going to avoid a repeat of that, they are going to need to continue to work and make some plays come January, and one of those plays may need to come from Hester. The good thing about that though is that he has been doing it all year, and one in the playoffs may be the key to the Bears advancing to Miami.