4 Downs: Chicago Bears
The Ravens have had their issues on special teams this season, but they will need to be at the top of their game on Sunday in Chicago. Awaiting kicks and punts from them will be one of the best return men in the history of the game in the Bears' Devin Hester.
Hester holds the NFL record with 20 return touchdowns -- 13 on punts, six on kickoffs and one on a missed field goal. He has never played against the Ravens.
Ravens special teams coach Jerry Rosburg said that baseball has the five-tool player, and Hester represents the "three-tool returner. He’s got great speed, he can change directions with the best of them, and he can break tackles. That’s what makes him, in my view, so special."
"It takes a whole team to stop this guy,” he added.
One of the major issues for the Ravens special teams will be maintaining lane integrity. The Ravens failed in that regard at Pittsburgh, allowing a 44-yard kickoff return to Emmanuel Sanders that set up the Steelers' game-winning field goal.
Overall this season, the Ravens rank 18th in kick coverage, allowing an average return of 24.4 yards, and rank 19th in punt coverage (9.6). They have not allowed a return touchdown this season.
Hester ranks fifth in kick returns (28.2 avg.) and seventh in punt returns (14.5). At 31 and in his eighth NFL season out of Miami, Hester can still bring it. He recorded his 20th return touchdown this season on an 81-yard punt return against the Redskins.
One player who will be tasked with stopping Hester is linebacker Josh Bynes, who has moved into more of a special teams role with Jameel McClain back in the starting lineup at inside linebacker.
Bynes said the key with Hester is "you have to stay in front of him. ... He's a fast guy, he can create on his own, so you definitely have to keep your eyes in front of a guy like that and definitely wrap him up when you get the chance to."
Bynes said it all comes down to discipline, technique and assignment football.
"You can't jump around blocks and stuff like that, because you do that, you open up a lane for him to run through, and when that guy gets out there, it's pretty much he's gone."