Friday, December 27, 2013
Pro Bowl selections: Chicago Bears
By Michael C. Wright
The NFL announced the 2013 Pro Bowl team, and two Chicago Bears made the cut -- receiver Brandon Marshall and running back Matt Forte. Second-year receiver Alshon Jeffery was snubbed despite leading the team in receiving yardage.
Marshall earned his third consecutive Pro Bowl nod and fifth overall, while Forte makes the team for the second time in three years. A second-round pick in 2012, Jeffery deserved recognition, but was overshadowed by other receivers such as Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, Josh Gordon, Andre Johnson and Demaryius Thomas.
Jeffery has produced a team-high 1,341 receiving yards, while Marshall leads the Bears in receptions with 94. The duo is the first set of Bears teammates since 1995 to each gain more than 1,000 yards in a single season. They’re also the only receiving duo in franchise history to each gain at least, 1,200 yards in a single season.
Combined, Marshall and Jeffery have racked up 11 100-yard receiving games, which include a combined 2,562 yards and 18 touchdowns. With six catches against the Packers on Sunday, Marshall will tie the NFL record for most 100-reception seasons (five), including his second in a row. Marshall became the first player in NFL history to record 100-reception seasons with two different teams.
Forte, meanwhile, ranks No. 3 in the NFL in rushing yards since 2008 (6,556) and is on the verge of surpassing his previous career high in rushing yardage (1,238 yards) set as a rookie. Forte has rushed for 1,229 yards this season and is third in the NFL currently with 1,776 yards from scrimmage.
“It’s a blessing to be selected to the Pro Bowl for a second time," Forte said. "God has blessed me so much, and I’m thankful for his grace on and off the field. I’d like to thank the many fans, friends and family for voting for me. But more importantly, I’m thankful to my teammates that helped me to achieve success on the field, especially my offensive linemen who work hard blocking for me every day and receivers who unselfishly work hard down field blocking for me.”
Forte has gained more than 1,400 yards from scrimmage in each of his first six NFL seasons, and has already broken his own franchise single-season record for catches by a running back with 70 catches so far. As a rookie, Forte set the record (63 receptions), and now holds the franchise’s top three single-season marks for catches by a running back, and five of the top seven totals.
It’s not a surprise the Bears didn’t land any defensive players on the Pro Bowl team after so many years of basically stocking the NFC side. A shoulder injury limited perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs to just eight starts and 76 tackles thus far. Cornerback Charles Tillman suffered a torn triceps that limited him to three interceptions and eight games. But he still managed to force six total takeaways.
Defensive end Julius Peppers had been to eight Pro Bowls, and made the team in each of his first three seasons in Chicago before missing the cut in 2013. Peppers scored a touchdown on a fumble return against Pittsburgh on Sept. 22, but he’s managed to produce just 6.5 sacks through the first 15 games this season after racking up at least 11 sacks in each of the past two seasons. Since 2002, Peppers has registered 118 sacks in 185 games, which ranks as second in the NFL behind Minnesota’s Jared Allen.
Defensive tackle Henry Melton was also a Pro Bowler for the Bears in 2012, but wasn’t named to this year’s squad after suffering a torn ACL on Sept. 22.
Considering the Bears rank 29th in total defense, and last against the run, none of this year’s group was deserving of Pro Bowl recognition outside of probably cornerback Tim Jennings, who made the NFC squad last year and has produced at a high level in 2013. Jennings ranks second in the NFL in interceptions (12) since 2012, and has returned two interceptions for touchdowns this season.
On the season, Jennings has picked off three passes, in addition to forcing a career-high two fumbles and recovering another.
Click here for the complete Pro Bowl roster.