Special teams key to Bears' blowout

Blocked punt well-designed, well-executed, but Hester's big punt return should have gone for TD

The Bears were facing one of the best special teams units in the NFL on Sunday, but special teams played a significant role in the Bears' victory.

On the blocked punt that Corey Wootton returned for a touchdown, the Bears surprised the Titans by sending seven rushers after the punter.

The Titans guessed the Bears would be emphasizing the return and kept only six men in to block. Upback Jordan Babineaux released without touching anyone, and wing Jamie Harper only chipped Nick Roach before releasing. He never laid a finger on Sherrick McManis, who used a fantastic first step and great extension to block the punt.

If McManis didn't get the punt, Wootton probably would have. He and Craig Steltz ran a stunt on former Bear Tim Shaw, and Shaw failed to block either of them.

It was a well-designed and well-executed play.

Devin Hester's 44-yard punt return was not executed as well. It clearly should have been a touchdown, but Hester's blockers blew it.

Hester fielded the punt, planted his foot and shot straight up the field. He hasn't done that often lately, and it worked wonderfully as he flew straight past Shaw and Beau Brinkley.

Blake Costanzo made the key block on Quinn Johnson to get Hester upfield but then it broke down.

Geno Hayes started celebrating at the 30 instead of blocking punter Brett Kern, who forced Hester to cut to his left. Then Anthony Walters forgot about Harper, started watching Hester and let Harper shoot by him to tackle Hester at the Titans' 9.

Here's what else we learned upon further review.

Grading key: Grades are between 0 and 10 with 0 being complete failure and 10 being perfect.

Special teams

Grade: 9

Special teams were sharp beyond the two game-changing plays.

Charles Tillman, normally an outstanding special teams player, was considerably less impressive on special teams than defense. On the first Titans' punt, he was beaten by gunner Tommie Campbell. On the next one, he held Campbell, drove him out of bounds and started a fight. After that, he was replaced on the punt return team.


Grade: 10

You can't be any more dominant than Tillman was on defense.

In addition to four forced fumbles, his coverage was top-notch, as was his tackling. The best unnoticed thing he did was shove the football after he forced Titans running back Chris Johnson to fumble in the first quarter. That prevented Johnson from recovering and allowed Chris Conte to get it.

Tim Jennings and Kelvin Hayden played strong too. Even when Jennings was beaten for a touchdown with a perfect throw, his coverage was about as good as it gets.