CHICAGO – Devin Hester hoped for multiple opportunities to find the end zone Sunday.
But every time the Carolina Panthers lined up for a kickoff, they wanted no part of NFL history. Panthers kicker Justin Medlock bounced a series of squib kicks past midfield, which gave the Bears’ good field position but kept the ball out of Hester’s hands.
Hester seemed frustrated by the Panthers’ strategy after the game. He watched as teammates Armando Allen, Earl Bennett, Kyle Adams, Craig Steltz, Eric Weems and Corey Wootton each returned short kicks for modest gains.
“Those guys are ranked No. 1 in kickoff coverage,” Hester said of the Panthers. “So, I thought, maybe a kickoff unit that’s ranked No. 1 would kick it out and let the guys play.”
The Bears’ average starting field position was their 32-yard line, while the Panthers’ average starting field position was their 20-yard line.
Weems said he was not entirely surprised by the Panthers’ cautious approach.
“We had an idea by looking at film,” Weems said. “That’s what they like to do, just squib it and let their defense play.
“But we didn’t know they were going to come out and do it that early. That’s just the respect they have for Devin as a returner. He’s dangerous. He’s in the Hall of Fame and still playing.”
Worth the wait: Kellen Davis caught only one pass Sunday, but it went for a 12-yard touchdown and marked one of the most important plays of the game.
Davis said he was the secondary option on the play, in which he sprinted past the Panthers’ linebackers down the middle of the field. Earl Bennett was the primary option but was covered.
“It was just a regular play that we’ve had in for a long time,” Davis said. “We ran it two or three times during the game. They ran Cover-2 and I got open in the back of the end zone, and Jay threw a great ball.”
Davis said he knew he had a chance to score when the linebackers did not chase after him.
“As soon as I get past the linebacker, if he sits, I’ve pretty much got it,” Davis said.
Feeling better: Bears wide receiver Earl Bennett said he felt OK despite taking a helmet to his lower back on the final series of the game.
On second-and-3 from the Panthers’ 47-yard line, Bennett leaped for a high pass from Cutler and was hit from behind by Panthers cornerback Josh Norman. Bennett bent over in pain after the play.
“I’m good,” Bennett said. “I had the wind knocked out of me. I’m all right, though.”
Bears bits: The Bears improved to 4-0 at Soldier Field. … Bears defensive tackle Nate Collins was active for the first time this season. He replaced Amobi Okoye, who was a healthy scratch.