In baseball parlance, Devin Hester is going to stop taking so many pitches and start swinging for the fences.
It's an approach that has transformed the Bears star into arguably the greatest return specialist in NFL history, but one that was missing in Monday night's win over the Lions. Hester let a punt bounce that he should have fielded and called a fair catch on another punt when he had room to run.
|Devin Hester is the NFL's all-time leader with 17 combined kick return touchdowns.|
In his first six seasons, Hester became the NFL's all-time leader with 17 combined kick return touchdowns and 12 punt return TDs. He has yet to score on special teams this season, averaging 7.6 yards on 12 punt returns with a long of 23 yards and 26.9 yards on 10 kickoff returns with a long of 38 yards.
"We're still searching for that big return," said special teams coordinator Dave Toub. "We're going to keep working at it and it'll come sooner or later.
"One thing about Devin that I've learned over the years is if he gets off to a good start he's pretty much dangerous the whole game. That's one thing that we're trying to get going with him is get him off to a fast start."
When the Bears host the Panthers Sunday, Hester would love to replicate his performance from last year against Carolina when he returned a punt 69 yards for a touchdown and brought back a kickoff 73 yards to set up a TD.
Giving credit: The two most productive games of Matt Forte's five-year NFL career have both come against the Panthers with 205 yards last season and 166 yards in 2010. On Friday, the humble running back credited the Bears offensive line for both outings.
"I just had good blocking," Forte said. "As a running back if you get good blocking up front and you get to the second and third level and you make somebody miss, you get big plays that way."
Forte has rushed for 203 yards on 44 carries in his last two games, including 96 yards on 22 attempts against a relentless Lions defensive line last Monday night at Soldier Field.
"[The line] did a great job up front," Forte said. "[Detroit] had a great front four last week and they pretty much handled them. They did a great job."
Wishing him well: Forte keeps in contact with former Bears teammate Greg Olsen, who returns to Soldier Field Sunday as a member of the Panthers.
Olsen's wife, Kara, gave birth to twins Oct. 9. Their daughter, Talbot, is healthy, but son T.J. was born with a heart defect that was detected midway through Kara's pregnancy. T.J. is doing well after undergoing surgery, but he needs to have two more procedures.
"I talked to Greg a lot this offseason," Forte said. "It was really early in the offseason when he first found out and I just told him I would continue to pray for him and hopefully his son continues to get better with the surgeries.
"[Greg] has been a great guy, as great as you can be about it. It's got to be tough and weighing on him, but he continues to play well and do well out there."
Dynamic duo: The Bears finally have developed continuity at safety, where Major Wright and Chris Conte have started as a tandem in all six games this season. The duo has combined for four interceptions while helping limit opposing quarterbacks to a 62.7 passer rating.
"Major Wright and Chris Conte have done a phenomenal job of not giving up the big plays, not letting guys get behind them like they did last year," said cornerback Charles Tillman.
"A lot of that credit goes to coach [Gill] Byrd. He has done a great job of just coaching those two guys and they're done a great job of receiving the coaching. I tip my hat to all three of them."