When traveling to Chicago on Sunday, the Ravens will have more to worry about than keeping the Bears offense off the board.
They’ll have to also contend with the incredible return skills of Devin Hester.
Hester owns the NFL record with 19 non-offensive touchdowns in his career - 13 punt returns, five kick returns and one return on a missed field goal.
The four-time All-Pro is having a solid season for Chicago, tying for 12th in the NFL with 28.2 yards per kickoff return and seventh with 14.5 yards per punt return. Hester is one of nine players to return a punt for a touchdown this season, an 81-yard score against Washington on Oct. 20.
“I was describing him to a player the other day. I think we have the concept in baseball - a five-tool player. He’s like the three-tool returner,” Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said Thursday. “He’s got great speed, he changes direction with the best of them and he can break tackles. That’s what makes him, in my view, so special. Obviously, his numbers (show that) he’s a special returner and we have to play extra special as well to keep him in check. ... It takes the whole team to stop him.”
With a threat like that upcoming, the Ravens have to feel good that their kick coverage appears to be on an upswing since sagging against the Steelers.
Since surrendering 32.3 yards per kickoff return and 18.0 yards per punt return at Pittsburgh on Oct. 20, the unit has performed well the last two games.
Baltimore held the Browns to 13.5 yards per kickoff return and 7.0 yards per punt return on Nov. 3. On Sunday, the Bengals averaged 25.0 yards per kickoff return and 10.3 yards per punt return.
“I think that we showed a lot more, the best word I can use to describe it is commitment to our responsibilities,” Rosburg said. “Guys weren’t looking around. They were actually just going down, running as hard as they could and doing their job. It sounds like a simple concept and it sounds like it should be taken for granted. But I think in previous weeks, we had a little bit of uncertainty exactly what our responsibilities were. I thought there was a lot more commitment to that this week and they played much more aggressive.”