Bears take care of business vs. Rams

SportsFootballChicago BearsJason McKieDevin HesterNFLDanieal Manning

Devin Hester playfully referred to it as "Secret Weapon No. 5," but the rest of the NFL knows it as the "Wildcat" offense.

The direct snap to the running back has been a staple in the Miami Dolphins' attack all season. Suddenly, it has become part of the Bears' repertoire.

Must have been in the works for a while, right?

"Y'all trying to make me tell our playbook?" Hester said. "We just did it this week … here and there.

"You want us to tell you the plays we're running next week too?"

The Bears had no trouble opening the playbook in Sunday's 27-3 victory over the lowly St. Louis Rams, which kept them tied atop the NFC North with Minnesota at 6-5.

A team that looked listless in last week's 37-3 loss to the Packers regained a bit of its swagger thanks to Matt Forte's legs and a defense that finally played inspired football.

Forte finished with a season-high 132 rushing yards on 20 attempts and two touchdowns, including a 47-yard dash through the middle of the St. Louis defense. Forte's effort made life easier on Kyle Orton, who had a ho-hum 139-yard passing day, completing 18 of 29 passes, including a 7-yard touchdown toss to fullback Jason McKie.

Defensively, the Bears had a season-high five sacks and tied a season high with four interceptions. Tommie Harris and Adewale Ogunleye had two sacks each, and Ogunleye knocked Rams starting quarterback Marc Bulger out of the game early in the first quarter. Lance Briggs had two interceptions, while Brian Urlacher's third-quarter interception off a Briggs tip led to Robbie Gould's 38-yard field goal.

"Did it look like we wanted it out there today?" Briggs said. "I think we definitely did. The energy was there, and we played together."

Hester was the offensive catalyst. Last week he voiced frustration about his struggles in the return game. The Bears responded by alleviating some pressure by replacing him with Danieal Manning on kickoff returns, then utilizing Hester more on offense.

"It was part of the game plan because the looks they give, we thought there were some things that we could do," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said of using Hester. "And he's a playmaker. We have to get it in his hands. We didn't last week, and we need to get the ball in the hands of our playmakers."

The Bears' first play was a reverse to Hester for 20 yards, aided by a block by Orton on highly touted Rams rookie end Chris Long. Three plays later, Forte followed blocks from Josh Beekman and John Tait en route to a 13-yard touchdown.

Hester contributed to the second scoring drive as well. On first-and-10 from the Rams 32, he took the direct snap and ran 12 yards as Orton lined up wide. Hester also caught a deep fade for 27 yards and an 8-yarder inside the 20, setting up Orton's 7-yard touchdown pass to fullback Jason McKie off play-action.

But all anyone wanted to talk about afterward was Hester's "Wildcat" play. The Bears also used it with Forte for one snap.

"I think it's a good thing to do when you have a guy like Devin Hester," center Olin Kreutz said. "He's dangerous, and we want to put the ball in his hands as much as possible. He's probably the most dangerous player in the NFL."

Hester finished with 115 all-purpose yards, including five catches for 57 yards. His 18-yard reception in the second quarter helped set up Gould's 43-yard field goal.

"Whenever you get more opportunities," Hester said, "you've got to try to step up and make plays."

Hester seemed to have no issue with Manning taking over kick returns. In fact, he's not against it staying that way.

"No, no problem with it at all," Hester said. "I felt a little more energized, able to run. I wasn't really that tired. At the end of the day, it could be a good thing, especially when you've got another guy capable of taking it the distance."

But Hester wants to remain on special teams in some capacity.

"I still want punts, but you never know," he said. "You see so many people who start off as a special-teams returner, and when they develop at their position, most likely they get taken off of special teams. I would love to stay at punt returns. But I'm not the coach. I just have to go with the flow."

The flow worked well Sunday.

vxmcclure@tribune.com

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