Just a week ago, the rookie out of Miami was on top of the world after returning two kickoffs for touchdowns aganst the Rams on Monday Night Football. Hester became just the fifth player in NFL history to accomplish that feat, and he upped his season total to six return TDs. Nobody had ever done that before.
Hester was the media darling of the week, and even head coach Lovie Smith admitted that perhaps he needed to find a way to get his new weapon some more consideration for Rookie of the Year. However, he deflected speculation that the youngster might get some looks on offense, standing firm that Hester was and will be a cornerback. Yet there he was on Sunday in the first half, split wide left at receiver and the target of a pass from quarterback Rex Grossman.
That throw fell harmlessly incomplete, but everybody knows that Hester's bread is buttered in the return game.
He started off strong by returning the opening kickoff 28 yards and would later take back a punt 32 yards, but his overall numbers were fairly lackluster. Hester averaged only 15.2 yards on five kickoff returns and just 10.5 yards on six punt returns, well below his season standard in both categories. But those weren't the numbers that should concern Bears fans.
The fact that he fumbled three times and lost one of them, however, should.
The Bears had a commanding 24-3 lead when Tampa Bay fullback Mike Alstott scored from 14 yards out with just 25 seconds left to play in the third quarter. The victory still looked all but inevitable at that point, but Hester fumbled the ensuing kickoff and gave the ball right back to red-hot Tim Rattay. Tight end Alex Smith caught a 9-yard scoring pass just 47 seconds into the fourth quarter, and all of a sudden, it was a 24-17 ballgame.
Rattay would eventually throw two more touchdown passes to even the score 31-31 and force overtime. Hester had one return attempt after the Bucs had to punt on their opening possession of the extra frame. He caused some shrieks in the stands by fumbling that one, too, but Hester was lucky to have the ball land harmlessly out of bounds.
Kicker Robbie Gould would go on to kick the game-winning field goal after Ian Scott recovered a fumble the next time Tampa Bay had the ball, securing a gut-wrenching 34-31 victory and wrapping up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Hester may be the scariest player in the NFL right now, but after Sunday's forgettable performance, he's scaring Bears fans just as much as he's scaring opponents. He's the Bear Report Dud of the Week.
Get Chicago Bears Tickets at The Ticket Chest