Rams marvel at Hester's ability as kick returner
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Tuesday, Dec. 12 2006
Early in the second quarter Monday night, the Rams took a 6-0 lead over
Chicago. Thirteen seconds later, the Bears were in front by a point.
Then midway through the final period, the Rams closed to a two-touchdown
deficit, 35-20. Thirteen seconds later, the Bears had regained a 22-point
Instant production came in the form of record-setting rookie Devin Hester, a
second-round draft pick out of Miami. His 94-yard kickoff return for a
touchdown erased the Rams' early lead; his 96-yard jaunt to the end zone
snuffed the home team's late rally.
The Bears prevailed 42-27, and the damage done by Hester was pivotal. "That's
definitely big," said Kay-Jay Harris, a member of the Rams' kick-coverage unit.
"If we could take those two touchdowns away, we're right in the ballgame ...
anything could happen."
In the process of shredding the Rams, Hester broke the NFL record for most
touchdown returns in a season. He had scored three times on punt returns and
once on a missed field goal before hauling back the two kickoffs at the Edward
"Of course, the story is Devin Hester," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "There
are a lot of good offensive rookies right now in the league, but who has had as
much impact as Devin Hester has in the league as a rookie? Just outstanding.
"When we needed the big plays, he stepped up."
The speedy Hester wound up with 246 return yards. He had 225 on four kickoffs,
a preposterous 56.3-yard average, and brought back one punt 21 yards.
"The guy's a great returner; you can't take anything from him," said the Rams'
Eric Moore, who also covers kicks. "He's got great vision, he knows where to
cut, and he plays off his blockers. He's one of those guys you've got to look
Still, Moore pointed out that Rams miscues aided Hester's cause. "We made a lot
of mistakes on the kickoff team, including me," Moore said. "We've got to go
down there and cover better, all of us."
On his first touchdown dash, Hester started up the middle, juked Jerametrius
Butler en route to the left side, then broke into the clear. On his second,
Hester burst quickly through the first line of defenders and easily sprinted
away from the rest.
"Great vision, great moves, fast .... he's the best in the league right now,"
said Ron Bartell, another coverage-team player. "He made the plays when it
counted, and it played a major role in us losing the game."