No guts, no glory? Not true with Hester

Teams that score a special-teams touchdown win about 60 percent of the time. That makes kicking away from Devin Hester a flawed, but correct, strategy,'s Steve Lawrence says.

To kick to Devin Hester or not to kick to Devin Hester. That is the question.

There's no good answer, because it's a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't scenario.

Kick it to Hester — who has a jaw-dropping 11 return touchdowns in 30 career games, not to mention one in last year's Super Bowl — and there's a decent chance the next play will be an extra-point kick.

Don't kick it to him, and you give away oodles of yardage in field position to an offense that needs as much help as it can get. Telling Jon Ryan to punt the ball 45 yards downfield and out of bounds is a lot like giving me a wedge from 100 yards and telling me to put in 5 feet from the hole. If it was easy, every punter would do it, regardless of whether it's Hester or a court jester returning kicks.

Just because there's no good answer, however, doesn't mean there isn't a right answer. Historically, teams that score a special-teams touchdown win almost 60 percent of the time.

Which is why Packers coach Mike McCarthy refused to kick off to Hester in the teams' October matchup, and why the Packers would be wise to kick away from Hester at almost all costs on Sunday.

McCarthy has lamented the field-position disparity in that October game, due in part to his frequent use of pooch kickoffs to keep the ball away from Hester. Chicago took possession of the ball, on average, at its 37-yard line compared to Green Bay taking over at its 24.

"We were minus-200 yards of field position. I think there are some things that we could do better," McCarthy said Wednesday. "He's clearly a weapon. He can score from anywhere on the field. If you have an opportunity to take that away, it's no different than game-planning against a quarterback or big-time receiver."

Field position no doubt is important, especially in December, when 40-yard field goals are no longer chip shots and 50-yard field goals are no longer an option. Still, giving away field position with pooch kickoffs and directional punting is better than watching Hester weave his way through a scared-to-death coverage unit that is playing tentatively and is more apt to lose its lane discipline.

Especially when you're playing the Bears.

Chicago will start Kyle Orton at quarterback. He was inept on Monday against Minnesota, and while playing for a second consecutive week will help, there's a reason he was mired on the quarterback-challenged Bears depth chart.

The situation at running back isn't much better. The Bears traded the wrong running back during the offseason, sticking with Cedric Benson instead of Thomas Jones. Benson is injured now, meaning the featured back is Adrian Peterson, who shares the same name as the Vikings' stud rookie but has none of his talent. Not that it matters, because the aging offensive line isn't what it was last year.

So, the decision is this: Kick the ball to Hester and take your chances, or kick it short (or out of bounds) and take your chances against Orton and Co.

Football is about being macho and not backing down to anyone. But it's also about being smart. Kick it away from Hester and make Orton beat you.

Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to E-mail him at

Packer Report Top Stories