Thursday, January 2, 2014
All-NFC North: Chicago Bears
By Michael C. Wright
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The Chicago Bears placed three offensive players on ESPN.com's All-NFC North team in Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte, with one notable exception in Brandon Marshall.
Meanwhile, cornerback Tim Jennings served as the lone representative from Chicago’s struggling defense.
For the record, we nominated both Jeffery and Marshall since they are the NFL’s top receiving duo. They combined for 2,716 yards -- the highest for a receiving pair in franchise history. Despite his pedigree as a four-time Pro Bowler and the fact he’s caught 90-plus balls in two consecutive seasons, Marshall fell victim to the numbers game as Detroit’s Calvin Johnson earned the spot on the all-division team opposite Jeffery. Marshall recorded his fifth 100-reception season, tying him for the most in NFL history.
Interestingly, Jeffery, Marshall and Forte are just the seventh trio of teammates in NFL history to feature one 1,200-yard rusher and two 1,200-yard receivers in a season.
In his second season, Jeffery posted 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns on 89 receptions. Both Marshall and quarterback Jay Cutler have campaigned pretty hard for Jeffery to be named to his first Pro Bowl. It’s almost certain that Marshall will make the Pro Bowl despite the snub on this NFC North team.
Having hit the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the fourth time in his career, Forte has also broken Chicago’s single-season record for catches by a running back (70), a mark he previously set as a rookie.
Bennett, meanwhile, set career highs in receptions (65) and receiving yards (759), while tying a career high in receiving touchdowns (5).
With the way the Bears have performed on defense, Jennings is definitely the only player deserving of All-NFC North mention. His 12 interceptions since 2012 rank second in the NFL only to Seattle’s Richard Sherman (16). Jennings is also one of six players in 2013 to return multiple interceptions for touchdowns, and his three interception returns for TDs since 2012 are tied for second-most in the league over that span.
One of the most notable absences on the all-division team is Bears return man Devin Hester, who tied Deion Sanders' NFL record for return touchdowns with an 81-yard punt return score in Week 7 at Washington. Hester's 2013 campaign has been decent, but Cordarrelle Patterson of the Minnesota Vikings put together a better season than arguably the best returner in NFL history.