Eagles-Bears matchup of the day: Thursday

Posted Nov. 25, 2010 @ 1:41 p.m.
Posted By Dan Parr

Here's a look at a key matchup heading into Sunday's Week 12 battle between the Eagles and Bears.

Bears WR-RS Devin Hester vs. Eagles' kickoff and punt coverage

The Bears' coaching staff opted to limit Hester's reps on offense to keep him fresh for returns around the middle of the season, and QB Jay Cutler said Wednesday that the team has done a good job of balancing Hester's duties thus far.

That change appears to have been beneficial for Hester, who leads the NFC in punt-return average (15.0) and has already taken two punts back for touchdowns. He'll have to deal with one of the craftier special-teams coordinators around on Sunday, though.

The coordinator, Bobby April, is in his first year with the Eagles and he's highly respected throughout the league. While his punt-coverage unit hasn't allowed a punt return for a TD this season, only six teams allow more yards per punt return than Philadelphia (11.9). The Eagles have been better at stopping kickoff returners. They're tied for 11th in average kick return allowed (22.1), and haven't given up a TD.

The Bears' offense is ranked close to the bottom of the league and one way to give it a lift is by allowing Hester to swing the momentum of a game or at least put the offense in good field position at the start of drives. Eagles P Sav Rocca can't afford to kick a line drive that doesn't give the coverage a chance to get down the field and surround Hester.