Despite the new rule that forces teams to kick off from the 35-yard line, Hester managed to run back three returns for 53 yards.
Bears receiver Devin Hester returned three kickoffs for 53 total yards against the Falcons on Sunday.
"We knew the kicker (Matt Bosher) we were facing this week was a rookie," Hester said. "He showed some glimpses in the preseason that he struggled to get it deep in the end zone, so we knew we were going to get some shots on kickoff return."
While Hester has always maintained a strong presence on the punt team, the three-time Pro Bowl selection only returned a combined 19 regular-season kickoffs the past two years. The rationale for phasing Hester off kickoff returns was to allow him to focus more on offense, where he's entering his third year as a full-time starting wide receiver.
Hester electrified the crowd in the third quarter by turning a simple screen pass into a 53-yard play that almost resulted in a touchdown. The officials ruled Hester was pushed out of bounds at the 1-yard line, and the ruling held up after Bears head coach Lovie Smith threw the red challenge flag.
"It was a quick screen, the safety came down and once I made a move on him I had the opportunity to stretch the field," Hester said. "He missed and I cut up in there and tried to get as much as I could and the left side opened up, so I went in and took that shot.
"I thought it was a touchdown. They robbed me, but we ended up getting in there."