Devin Hester spent the first eight years of his NFL career with the Chicago Bears, a fan favorite within that entire eight-year duration. However, Chicago was saddened when Hester announced that he signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Falcons last year. Bears fans had more than enough reason to miss their wide receiver and wish that he was back in Chicago when Hester showed Atlanta what he was all about. In Thursday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Hester broke an NFL record for most return touchdowns in a career while wearing a Falcon’s uniform. Former Falcon and Hall of Famer, Deion Sanders, held this record at 19 prior to the game. Sanders was coincidentally working on the sideline as a television analysis in the Georgia Dome and was all smiles as he witnessed Hester’s achievement of officially being the best returner in NFL history.
Devin Hester nabbed a punt from Buccaneers’ Michael Koenen and took off down the field, resulting in a 62-yard touchdown in the second quarter. This touchdown return was enough to break Deion Sanders’ record of most return touchdowns in a year, now set at 20, but it will only increase for the remainder of Hester’s NFL career. In total, Hester has recorded 14 punt return touchdowns, five touchdowns from a kickoff, and one touchdown from a fumble in his nine years in the NFL. He also scored the first rushing touchdown in his career and also recovered a fumble in Thursday’s game. This game may have given the wide receiver reason to take back any lingering second-thoughts he may have had about leaving Chicago.
Hester clearly stated to Chicago’s Adam Hoge of WGN Radio that he is happy being with the Atlanta Falcons, an emotion that faded away in the last few years as a Chicago Bear. The Bears have had average seasons since their Super Bowl appearance in 2006 against the Colts. Devin Hester opened up that game with a return touchdown in the first kickoff, but the Bears went on to lose 29-17. Since then, Hester’s achievements on a game-to-game basis slowly fell off and could not mesh well with Bears’ quarterback, Jay Cutler. Hester did not hold anything back as he told Hoge how happy he was to finally have a quarterback and coaches that understand him, and that are looking to make plays for him. He also stated that he is excited for the season and the successes it will bring for both himself and the Falcons team as a whole.
The Atlanta Falcons left the stadium with a blow-out win against Tampa Bay, as they won 56-14. The Falcons scored all their points in the first three quarters of the game, while the Buccaneers found their first opportunity to score in the middle of the fourth quarter. The Falcons also tied a team record for the largest lead at halftime, leading 35-0 after the first half. The last time the Falcons were up 35 points at halftime was also against Tampa Bay in January 2012 with another blow-out score of 42-7. The Atlanta Falcons seem to have found their answer in their decision to add Hester to the roster. Devin Hester, a Windy City legend, has been quiet for the most part in Atlanta. The silence was broken on Thursday night and has given Atlanta hopes for a championship.
Commentary by Tricia Manalansan