Devin Hester had the big punt return the first time the Bears and Vikings got together, scoring on an 89-yard run back to open the scoring in the 34-31 loss to Minnesota at Soldier Field Oct. 14.
The big return of the game, though, was the 53-yard kickoff return by Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson in the closing minutes after the Bears had rallied to a tie on an 81-yard touchdown pass from Brian Griese to Hester. Peterson’s run back went to the Bears’ 38-yard line, setting up Ryan Longwell’s game-winning 55-yard field goal.
Hester, who has scored five touchdowns on returns this season, has not had a return of longer than 23 yards in the last two games after scoring two touchdowns vs. Denver on Nov. 25. It sounds like the Vikings are looking for something other than booting the ball out of bounds on kickoffs to set the Bears up on their own 40-yard line. One thing special teams coordinator Dave Toub has been guarding against all season is an onside kick. If teams are going to give the Bears premium field position any way, why not try an onside?
``We are going to have options like we did in the last game,’’ Minnesota special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro said. ``Obviously, the first option wasn't good for us when they brought it back. The one thing I can tell you, to kick the ball out of bounds on kickoff and give them the ball at the 40-yard line every time you kick off, I don't know that that is the right thing to do.
``But we will have options. We will have some different things we can do both in the punting game and on kickoffs.’’
Because a knee injury sidelined Peterson for two games, he’s been off kick return duties for the last six games. Depending on the circumstance, that could change in this must-win game for the Vikings.
``That is something coach [Brad] Childress and I talk about week to week,’’ Ferraro said. ``And really it just comes down to where we are in the game, where he is at in terms of his repetitions. It's certainly a possibility. He still has taken some reps back there and we'll just have to see how the game is going and where we are at.’’