Bears get motor going

Chicago Tribune

Two Devin Hester kick returns for touchdowns stole the show and set an NFL record, but the Chicago Bears and beleaguered quarterback Rex Grossman needed this for more than show.

With Monday's 42-27 victory over the St. Louis Rams, Chicago clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs and stepped closer to home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

Hester, a rookie pressed into service as the No. 3 cornerback because of the hamstring injury that sent Nathan Vasher to the inactive list, set records with his fifth and sixth returns for touchdowns of the season.

The first, a 94-yard kick return for a score, gave the Bears (11-2) a boost in the second quarter just after the Rams (5-8) had driven 99 yards for a touchdown.

"The coaches were telling me they kind of overpursue on the wedge," Hester said, "and to look for the cutback. They overpursued to the right and I cut it back."

It was his first kickoff return for a score, to go with three punt returns for touchdowns and a 108-yard run after a missed field goal against the New York Giants on Nov. 12 that tied the longest play in league history.

His second touchdown Monday, a 96-yard kickoff return, broke the record of five he had set earlier.

He is the first Bears player to run two kickoffs for scores in a game.

It was also a night of redemption for Grossman, who had been under pressure to perform or lose his job.

His 13 completions in 23 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns helped the Bears to their highest point total of the season.

The Bears quarterback threw a short slant to Bernard Berrian that turned into a 34-yard touchdown play only after Grossman read a Rams defensive back trying to jump the route and let Berrian clear the defender. In the third quarter, Grossman lofted a perfect ball to Muhsin Muhammad for a 14-yard touchdown to put the Bears up 28-13.

"The best way of describing it is efficient and decisive and getting the ball to guys I needed to," Grossman said.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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