Bears' special teams have some work to do

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Few things are easy to predict when it comes to the Bears.

But special-teams consistency is one of them.

Since the arrival of special teams coach Dave Toub in 2004, the Bears’ third phase has been ranked in the top 10 in five of the last six seasons, including being No. 1 overall in 2006 and 2007, and No. 6 in 2009.

That's why it was so noteworthy when the Bears committed three special teams mistakes Saturday night in San Diego.

Allowing kickoff returns of 51 and 35 yards, not to mention surrendering a blocked punt, usually don't happen to such a consistent and elite unit.

"They [Chargers] played faster than we did," Toub said Monday. "It does get your attention. We looked at it on tape and they saw that we weren't playing as fast as we need to. We'll make the necessary corrections next week. If it shows up again, then we have issues, but I think the guys see it and will perform next week."

On the positive side, Toub singled out Kahlil Bell and Major Wright for their efforts against the Chargers, and predicted Wright should have a big role on special teams once his finger injury is healed. He’ll have surgery on his left index finger and miss Saturday’s game against the Raiders.

"He's never played special teams before," Toub said of Wright. "But he's accepting it, and he's going to be our slot on the punt team if he stays in that role. If he's not a starter, he's going to be a four-phase player for us."

Mistakes are correctable, but a serious injury to a core player is tough to overcome. For a moment Saturday, Toub began to panic, after veteran long snapper Patrick Mannelly got injured making a tackle on the punt team. Mannelly has handled every snap for the Bears in 121 consecutive games, making him an invaluable member of the organization, not to mention a team captain.

"I thought it was his [right] hand, because he was holding his hand," Toub said. "But really it was a nerve thing, he had the whole vibration down his back and down his arm. Typical burner is what he had, because he hit himself on the shoulder. When you look at the tape, he didn't hit his head, which is good. He made a nice assisted tackle on the play, but yeah it did scare me.

"I thought he broke his right hand. Then I saw it was just a stinger, so I said you're fine, get back out there."