Hester steps up in other role

Reed Schreck

If Devin Hester was sore, it wasn’t from what he usually does.

The only three times Hester got smacked Sunday against Philadelphia was after the three passes he caught for 41 yards.

Special teams? Never touched the ball.

Not once.

Not on five Eagle kickoffs. Or four Eagle punts.

That’s OK with him. For now. He had plenty to be pleased about not only regarding his team’s 19-16 victory, but his own contributions.

He came into the game with two career catches, and surpassed that in one afternoon.

He was on the field in the offense’s crunch time -- for the first time.

No nerves, either.

“It was going to be my shot to go out, step up and let them know I’m capable of making plays,” he said.

He felt he had no choice.

“In the NFL, you have to make plays,” he said. “I’m glad I’m getting opportunities to go out and make plays and being put in a position like that -- a minute to go in the game, we’re down and having the coaches have faith in me knowing I can go out and get the job done.

“That’s what I want to continue (doing) the rest of the season.”

Sunday’s effort was simply another step to take to become more of an integral part of the offense.

It will help when he learns it. Fellow receiver Muhsin Muhammad had to tell Hester where to line up a couple of times with the play clock ticking down. Once, Chicago had to call a timeout. Back on the field, Hester caught a short pass that he turned into an 11-yard gain and a first down on a drive that tied the game 9-9.

He also caught passes for 9 and 21 yards on the game-winning, 97-yard march. The first came on third-and-1 and the second on second-and-10.

“It’s knowing you’ve got the capabilities of going out and getting the job done,” he said of the last drive. “That you deep down have got to find ways to make plays. That’s what we work hard on in practice, trying to execute our assignments and making plays.”

The way offensive coordinator Ron Turner used him helped. Turner left him in for multiple plays rather than one here and one there. It changes how a defense thinks and can respond.

“They’re really aware of him,” Turner said. “If you put him in on spot plays, if he just all of a sudden goes in there, then they’re really aware of him.

“If he’s in the flow of the game, eventually they just have to play football; he’s in there like anybody else. As long as the other guys step up and make plays, as they did (Sunday), it’s hard for them if they want to key on him -- it will open something else.”

That was obvious on the final drive, where Griese also hit Desmond Clark, Adrian Peterson, Bernard Berrian and Muhammad.

“What coach (Lovie) Smith has been harping on is finishing the game,” Hester said. “It’s what we hadn’t been doing the past couple of weeks.

“Basically, we’re trying to turn the season around. It’s tough right now. We went out and got a lot of good field position.”

And that good field position was compliments of Hester’ presence rather this his feet. Of course, he’d rather other teams kick it to him. That desire will never change.

“I will take it, though, if we get good field position,” he said.

Smith is content to keep winning the field-position battle.

“That’s just something that we’ll have to live with, teams kicking away from Devin,” Smith said. “Field position has been good for us since teams have started kicking away from Devin.

“We’ll live with it -- Devin doesn’t have to take any shots and we get good field position.”

Reed Schreck is the NFL writer for the Rockford Register Star. Contact him at 815-987-1381 or rschreck@rrstar.com.