Devin Hester plays, makes Lions pay

Updated: November 14, 2011, 1:25 PM ET
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears kept receiver/return man Devin Hester (ankle) off the team's inactive list for Sunday's NFC North clash with the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field and were rewarded when he returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter of their 37-13 win.

Hester left the field in the first half and did not return due to illness. He also returned a first-quarter punt 29 yards to set up a Matt Forte touchdown and had a 35-yard return negated by a penalty.

Hester left without talking to reporters.

"That guy is amazing," receiver Earl Bennett added. "It doesn't get any better when it comes to the return game. He's one of those guys that can take it to the house at any time. He came out here and gave us everything he had on that sore ankle."

The Bears listed Hester as questionable on the official injury report heading into Sunday, but the only thing questionable was Detroit's decision to kick the football to the NFL's all-time leader in returns for touchdowns. Hester returned three punts for 122 yards, including an 82-yard touchdown that put the Bears up 20-0 in the second quarter.

"Devin Hester missed all of last week, a little under the weather also, along with an ankle injury," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We felt like he could go. I've had a great seat to watch every return he's had and he's had a lot of great ones. Gutsy effort by him tonight. Special teams, I thought played well throughout."

Hester is expected to be available when the Bears host San Diego next weekend.

"Again, he was a little under the weather," Smith said."He didn't get a chance to practice a lot last week. I think the combination of all that, then early, when you have a long return, that didn't help the case any either. He'll come back ready to go."

This marked Hester's 12th career punt return touchdown and 17th career kick return touchdown. Coupled with his 108-yard missed field goal return versus the Giants in 2006, Hester now has 18 return touchdowns in his career, one behind Hall of Famer Deion Sanders who accomplished the feat in 188 career games.

Hester had played in just 85 games, and the Bears now are 13-3 in games which Hester records a return touchdown.

Hester's availability was in question after he sustained a sprained ankle in Chicago's win over the Eagles.

Starting defensive tackle Matt Toeaina was inactive and Anthony Adams, who was inactive for the first time all season Monday night against the Eagles, started at nose tackle opposite Melton.

Toeaina had returned Monday night from a knee injury that kept him out two games. But the team made the veteran inactive for Sunday's game, despite him being listed on the injury report as probable.

Other Bears' inactives included quarterback Nate Enderle, running back Kahlil Bell, defensive end Corey Wootton, right tackle Gabe Carimi -- who underwent arthroscopic surgery on Friday -- defensive end Nick Reed, and tight end Andre Smith.

The team made Wootton an inactive for the eighth time this season. Smith had been promoted to the active roster earlier in the week when Kyle Adams was placed on the injured reserve because of a torn hamstring.

Detroit's inactives included quarterback Drew Stanton, punter Ryan Donahue, cornerbacks Alphonso Smith and Don Carey, running back Jahvid Best, guard Leonard Davis and defensive tackle Andre Fluellen.

Maurice Morris started in Best's place, while Robert Malone took over punting duties for Donahue.

Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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