The Chicago Bears took a 14-6 second quarter lead over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in electrifying fashion, thanks to Tarik Cohen running back what has to be the best punt return of the season.
Catching the ball at the Bears’ 40-yard line, Cohen proceeded to take a route that surely had coaches, teammates and fans screaming “No! No! No!” The rookie running back retreated back 15 yards to avoid 49ers tacklers, eventually turning toward his right then darting back to his left.
But the misdirection certainly worked, as Cohen avoided the initial wave of eight defenders, found a lane with a blocker in front of him and sprinted for a 61-yard touchdown. Take a look at the play:
That 61-yard measurement almost doesn’t seem fair, considering how far back Cohen ran to avoid that kickoff coverage. Finding the energy to hit that opening, in addition to shifting to another gear to sprint away from tacklers, was an absolutely amazing effort.
Before you shrug your shoulders and say that’s the 49ers being the 49ers (coming into Week 13 with a NFC-worst 1-10 record, consider what Andrew Catalon mentioned during the replay: San Francisco actually led the NFL in punt return coverage before Cohen’s 61-yard jaunt.
Cohen, a rookie out of North Carolina A&T, came into Sunday’s game averaging 7.8 yards per punt return and 155 yards overall. His previous long for a return this season was 21 yards.
That punt return touchdown also put Cohen into some exclusive company in NFL history.
Tarik Cohen is the 1st rookie since Hall of Famer Gale Sayers in 1965 to have a PR-TD, rushing TD, receiving TD & passing TD in a season.
He is the 1st player to accomplish the feat since Terry Metcalf in 1975. pic.twitter.com/WYKr3nQBOu
— Randall Liu (@RLiuNFL) December 3, 2017