Granted, there weren’t many more steps the Lions could take backwards after giving up four touchdowns in their previous two games. But last week at least has them trending in the right direction.
The difficult task that is now ahead of them is keeping it going against a very talented Bears special teams.
Osgood has been to three Pro Bowls as a special teams performer over a 10-year career and Wendling was a Pro Bowl alternate for the Lions in 2010. Both of the Lions' gunners say Hester is a whole different kind of problem when he's back there returning kicks.
“You don’t really have a lot of time to make a lot of moves,” Osgood said of playing Hester. “You have to get down there fast before he gets started. He’s a guy that has quick acceleration, so you can’t give him a lot of space.
“A lot of time you can get down there and settle down and shimmy up and try to make a tackle, but with this guy you have to take shots at him because if you give him a chance he’s gone.”
Hester has yet to break loose for a touchdown this season, averaging just 7.8 yards per punt return (ninth in NFC). He’s been a little better returning kickoffs (26.9), ranking seventh in the conference.
But both Osgood and Wendling know that it’s just a matter of time with Hester if you slip up for just a moment.
“He’s just so elusive,” Wendling said. “He’s just not a guy you can take a shot on. You have to catch him at the right moment.
“We’re taught to take a shot, but he does such a good job of waiting until the final moment until he can make guys miss. He’s a guy where you hope the first guy can make him stop his feet long enough so the second guy can get him.”
The Lions were up to the challenge last week against another explosive returner in the Eagles’ DeSean Jackson. Their performance last week stopped the bleeding and head coach Jim Schwartz knows that there can’t be any steps backwards because the Bears have one of the best special teams in the league.
“They have good players in all three phases. Probably the best special teams…you mentioned Devin Hester on special teams; they have outstanding cover players (too),” Schwartz said. “They have outstanding specialists. Robbie Gould has drove balls five yards out of the end zone consistently.
“It makes it very difficult to get any returns on him. (Adam) Podlesh has been very good with his punts. Devin Hester returning both punts and kicks; their coverage units - that goes a little unnoticed.”
It hasn’t gone unnoticed by either Osgood or Wendling, who have their work cut out in all phases of special teams Monday night in Chicago.
“It’s something to build on,” Wendling said of last week’s performance on special teams against the Eagles. “We can’t be satisfied with it, of course. There are still a lot of things we need to work on. We just have to go up from here. We can’t slack off or lose a step.”