Wednesday, January 8, 2014
10 plays that shaped the season: No. 3
By Michael C. Wright
WHEN: Dec. 22, 2013
WHERE: A 54-11 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
THE PLAY: Devin Hester’s fumble on a kickoff helped Eagles take a 14-0 lead on the way to a 21-point first quarter.
WHAT THEY SAID: Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis: “That ball broke to the 40 that got stripped out. So we were going to give our offense a short field there if we can just secure the ball, and Devin’s not the only one responsible for ball security the way I look at it. You know, guys finishing blocks and guys making sure that their guy is not there to strip at the end. But anytime you get that close to the kicker that’s a successful return. But you’ve got to give the ball back to your offense, which we didn’t do there. The guy made a nice play for Philly. [He] came off, and we had him engaged in a block and he came off and made a nice play. Like I say, any time you get to the 40-yard line on a kickoff return, it’s a pretty successful return. I’d say [the fumble was] pretty big. I mean, what was it? We were down 7-0 at that time. That puts you down 14-0, so I think it was a huge one. They came to play last night, and we helped them out at the start of the game for sure.”
IMPACT OF THE PLAY: Already behind 7-0 on the road in a crucial road after Nick Foles’ 5-yard touchdown pass to Riley Cooper, the Bears further diminished their chances for winning on the ensuing kickoff. Hester returned the kick 36 yards, but Bradley Fletcher stripped him at the end of the run with Cary Williams recovering. The Eagles took possession at the 39 with 9:45 left in the first quarter, and capitalized on the mistake with a LeSean McCoy 1-yard run to go up 14-0. Prior to that return, the last time Hester lost a fumble on a kickoff return was Oct. 25, 2009 in a 45-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, according to STATS Inc.
The fumble in this instance contributed to a 21-point opening quarter for the Eagles, which totally changed the dynamic of the game because it forced the Bears to abandon their game plan in an attempt to come back from the deficit.