The only thing special

It was about as good as a specific unit could possibly feel when unaccompanied by a victory. The Raiders not only pulled on Superman's cape, they suffocated him with it.

Given the suggestion by special teams coach Brian Schneider, Lane Kiffin told the Chicago media during a conference call the Raiders would kick the ball to premier Bears return specialist Devin Hester.

It made big news in Chicago, where Hester is the most explosive football player since Gale Sayers and a threat to go the distance every time he handles a punt or kickoff.

It was more than gamesmanship. The Raiders not only kicked to Hester, they stopped him in his tracks in a 17-6 loss to the Bears at McAfee Coliseum.

Hester, who came in averaging 19.6 yards per punt return, fielded six punts and averaged 2.5 per return, with a long of 9. The Raiders were so brazen that with 10 seconds left in the half, rather than kick it out of bounds, Shane Lechler hammered it high and long toward the Bears end zone.

Isaiah Ekijuiba dropped a retreating Hester for a 4-yard loss at the 7.

Lechler punted seven times for a 48.1-yard average and 46.6 net. The day ranks as one of the highlights of his career.

"That was the most fun I ever had in a football game," Lechler said. "I had a blast."

On kickoff returns, the tone was set early. On the opening kickoff, Hester gained 15 yards and was stopped at the 20. After an Oakland field goal, Hester fielded a kick 8 yards deep in the end zone, brought it out, and was stopped at the 11.

"We're trusting one another, and that's key," long snapper Jon Condo said. "We're staying in our lanes, we're getting down there fast, and we're taking shots. When we can trust one another and trust someone to make a tackle, we're going to have good results."

Linebacker Jon Alston, another special teams regular, said film study revealed that teams that hesitated were in trouble.

"Teams that did good against him were the ones that didn't hesitate," Alston said. "The ones that did (struggle) were the ones that did hesitate. You've got to give him his due, but you can't beat 11 guys all the time. With 11 guys hunting for your head, it's a difficult thing to do."

Kiffin found a Hester quote in the Monday morning papers that said the Raiders special teams players simply wanted it more and played at 110 percent. He read it to the entire team.

"For him to make that statement, I want someone to make that statement about our (entire) team some day," Kiffin said.


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