Special Teams Truly Special in Chicago

Not only have the Chicago Bears been better both on offense and defense so far this year, but all of their special-teams play has been as good as ever. Oftentimes forgotten by fans and experts alike, the Monsters of the Midway have dominated the third phase of football since Dave Toub arrived.

Outstanding special teams have been a staple of the Bears since coach Lovie Smith hired Dave Toub as special teams coordinator when he took over in 2004.

According to the Dallas Morning News special-teams ranking system, the Bears were No. 1 in 2006 and '07, and they have finished in the top one-third of the league in five straight seasons.

"Dave does a super job with the schemes, he and [assistant] Chris Tabor," Smith said. "It's documented now. We've been good with our special teams since we've been here. We've won a lot of games with our special teams. There is an emphasis placed on it. Our players know the importance of special teams when they have seen games being won based on our special teams play."

Last week was a perfect example of what Toub's crew is capable of. Five punt returns – four by Earl Bennett, one by Devin Hester – averaged 17.4 yards. Four kickoff returns – three by Johnny Knox, one by Danieal Manning – averaged 37.5 yards, including a 102-yard TD by Knox, who was named NFC special teams player of the week.

All four of Brad Maynard's punts were exquisitely placed out of bounds inside the 20, allowing no return yards. Eight Lions kickoff returns averaged just 18.6 yards, and kicker Robbie Gould was 2 for 2 on field goal attempts, including a 52-yarder – his first ever of more than 50 yards.

"It's just a combination of the crew, great system that we have with our special teams and our players buying into the importance of special teams. We have a history around here now. We have a reputation around here now, and guys realize that."


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