COORDINATOR CUT-UP

Lions cover units made Devin Hester a non-factor Sunday

Posted Oct 1, 2013

Special teams coordinator John Bonamego was happy with the way the Lions corralled Devin Hester all game

Tahir WhiteheadLB Tahir Whitehead stripped the ball from Bears' returner Devin Hester. (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

Detroit Lions special team's coordinator John Bonamego didn't want to see explosive Bears return man Devin Hester get his hands on the football eight times on Sunday.

Bonamego told detroitlions.com on Monday that Hester getting that many touches certainly wasn't in the game plan, but Bonamego also said he was extremely happy with the way his coverage units handled the All Pro returner when he did get opportunities to return.

"We were able to contain him and not let him affect the game," Bonamego said. "That's a victory when you go against a player of his caliber."

Hester returned six kickoffs for an average of 24.5 yards with a long of 32 yards. He took back two punts for an average of just 8.5 yards with a long of 11 yards.

Hester had 249 total return yards in a game this season against Minnesota. He entered the game with 12 career return touchdowns.

The Lions nearly forced a turnover on special teams, too. Linebacker Tahir Whitehead stripped Hester on a first-quarter kickoff return, but Bears running back Michael Ford was able to pounce of the football.

Through the first four games, the Lions rank seventh in the NFL in punt coverage, allowing just 5.5 yards per return.

The Lions are allowing an average of 24.1 yards per kickoff return, which ranks 20th in league, but only two of the 12 kickoffs returned against them have gone for more than 30 yards, and none for more than the one 32-yarder Hester had Sunday.

"They've had some challenges," head coach Jim Schwartz said of his coverage units during Monday's press conference. "Patrick Peterson (Arizona), and (Cordarrelle ) Patterson from Minnesota. Devin Hester. Those guys are really good returners. I think that our guys were up for the challenge this week. Did a nice job of kick location and depth when it came to Devin Hester.

"Special teams is a teams sport, it's not about individual achievement. It's about what the group is able to do and I think we're on the right track there."

Bonamego also spoke on a couple other developments from Sunday's game:

On Micheal Spurlock's 57-yard punt return: "That was a nice run by Micheal. He picked up some good blocks from guys along the way and made two guys miss. That's kind of how those plays happen. Punters in this league are so good that you really have to take the mentality that you have to be swinging at each pitch.

"Sometimes, they're going to beat you, but you can't wait around to see if the next one is going to be in your wheelhouse. You have to be swinging when the ball leaves the pitchers hand. That one was in the wheelhouse and we were able to get him started. It impacted the game and that's a good thing."

On the lack of success returning kickoffs vs. Chicago (20.7 average): "We are not going to play scared against anybody. We task them to execute a scheme and hold them accountable for blocking their man. When it doesn't happen according to plan you go back and reevaluate and see what you can do better.

"Our general rule is if he can catch the ball moving forward, and it's not hanging, and he's not too deep, we're okay to bring that out. I thought we had a good plan against (Chicago), we just didn't execute.

"We were a block or two away and the blocks we missed. To their credit were the guys that ended up with the tackles. Chicago is a good coverage unit and they have been for a long time. We're close on a couple of those kickoff returns from popping through there."