David Buehler led the NFL in touchbacks last season when that was his only job. There was some concern with him also kicking field goals this season that his kickoffs might suffer. That wasn't evident in the preseason when most of his kicks were downed in the end zone.
But the season opener was another story as Devin Thomas took Buehler's two kickoffs back 34 and 42 yards. Buehler had to make tackles both times, saving possible touchdowns.
"The first one, I didn’t send it deep enough to the right," Buehler said. "The direction is critical. Coming into this game, they’re a wedge team. Joe D [special teams coach Joe DeCamillis] made a big point that direction was going to be critical, and I put it too much down the middle. He said if you put it down the middle you’re going to have to make tackles. He said that in meetings, and he was exactly right. The hole just opened up, and I had to fill it and make the tackle. The other one I had good direction on, but sometimes they break it out. They broke it down the sideline, and I had to make the tackle."
The Bears have two of the best returners in the league. Danieal Manning, a Corsicana native who played at Abilene Christian, has a career kickoff return average of 27.7 yards. He has returned 13 of a career 71 kickoff returns 40 or more yards. He had three returns for 70 yards Sunday, including a long of 30. Devin Hester, who returns mostly punts these days, has four career kickoff return touchdowns and has returned seven punts for touchdowns.
"Danieal Manning has run it out seven yards deep, so we kick it deep normally at home," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. "He’s kicked pretty deep, but we’ve still got to expect them to try to run it out."
Phillips said part of the problems the Cowboys' kickoff coverage team had against the Redskins stemmed from rookie Sean Lee keeping quiet about a hamstring injury. Lee was injured on the first punt of the game and continued to play despite being hurt. Lee is not expected to play this week.
-- Charean Williams