- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO – As if Devin Hester needed any extra motivation on Sunday, the three-time Pro Bowl return man seethed with anger on the Chicago Bears’ sideline as Minnesota rookie Cordarrelle Patterson returned the game’s opening kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown.
“Man, it [ticked] me off,” Hester said. “It [ticked] me off to have someone come into our home turf and to take one to the house. Ooh, it [ticked] me off. I was so [ticked] before the kickoff, I was praying, ‘Please, I don’t care how deep the guy kicks it I’m bringing it out.’ That’s the mentality I took. I told my guys out there we’re not going to get punched in the mouth like that and just fall over and back down. If he kicks it 9 yards deep [in the end zone], especially after they take one to the house, we coming out. So, don’t expect me to take a knee.”
Patterson’s early heroics lit a fire under Hester, who entered Week 2 with four return scores in 13 career games against the Vikings. Hester responded with a 76-yard return of his own on the ensuing kickoff to set up the Bears’ first scoring drive of the afternoon. He finished with five kickoff returns for a career-high 249 yards, eclipsing the 225 yards he had on kickoff returns against St. Louis in his rookie season of 2006.
But Hester’s best moment in the Bears’ 31-30 victory occurred in the second quarter when he fielded the ball 3 yards deep in the end zone and proceeded to run it back 80 yards to the Minnesota 23. The 76- and 80-yard returns were Hester’s longest kickoff returns since he ran one back 98 yards for a touchdown on Oct. 16, 2011, against the Vikings.
“I think they were kind of cheating [on the 80-yard return],” Hester said. “Their [primary tacklers on kickoff coverage] weren’t coming down and trying to make the tackles, they were kind of just playing contain and sitting around the 40- or 45-yard line just waiting to cut off the angle on me. That’s a good plan, a very smart call by their special-teams coach. We just have to make sure we make plays when that happens.”
Hester acknowledged the wet conditions at Soldier Field on Sunday also were a factor in his success.
“I think the weather played a big role in what happened today,” Hester said. “It was a rainy day and the ball was a little heavy, so it kind of prevented a lot of touchbacks. We knew it was going to be a run-and-attack day with the rain. We knew the special teams were going to have to play a big factor in this game, and that’s what we did. We stepped up and made plays.
"I was just happy they kicked it to me. Whenever you get an opportunity to get your hands on the ball, even if it’s a nice kick and you have to bring it out, it gives me an opportunity to make plays."