Despite missing the playoffs, fans coaches and players had respect for the 2011 Chicago Bears team voting five Bears players to the Pro Bowl.
Return trips to the Pro Bowl were in order for Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs and first time Pro Bowlers Corey Graham, Charles Tillman and Matt Forte rounded out the selections.
Forte made the Pro Bowl in spite of his late season knee injury which cost him the last four games of the season. Forte at the time of his injury was leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage, in the final year of his contract.
Forte will obviously use this as leverage when contract negotiations ramp up in the off-season. If the Bears cannot re-sign Forte early they’ll likely franchise him to prevent him from hitting the open market.
Forte is the first Bears running back to be named to the Pro Bowl since Neal Anderson following the 1991 season. He ranked third in the league in rushing yards (997) and ranked fourth among all running backs with 490 yards receiving. His 4.9 rushing average in 2011 is a career high and sixth among NFL running backs with at least 150 rushing attempts this season.
A well deserved nod for Charles Tillman who had one of if not the best season of his career. Tillman’s stats were amongst the best in the league. 103 tackles are second in the NFL amongst CBs. He also has 13 pass break ups and three forced fumbles. His ability to line up against the opposing receiver and shut them down is key to the Bears’ defensive success.
Tillman’s notable season performance came against the Lions’ Calvin Johnson at home. Tillman had five tackles one pick, and held Johnson to a mediocre seven receptions for 81 yards, take away the 40 yard reception in garbage time and Johnson had only six catches for 41 yards.
Bears special teams ace Corey Graham earned his first Pro Bowl nod, arguably a year late. Graham is the best cover man on the best coverage unit in the NFL. Matt Bowen calls Graham “the best cover man in the NFL.” and it’s well deserved recognition.
Graham leads the Bears with 20 special teams tackles after coaches’ review this season. Since entering the NFL in 2007, Graham ranks tied for second in the NFL with 74 special teams tackles, based on press box statistics. Graham plays on five of the Bears six special teams units (punt coverage, kickoff coverage, punt returns, kickoff returns and field goal blocks).The Bears punt return coverage unit ranks second in the NFL this season allowing just 5.4 yards per return.
Briggs and Urlacher? I think we know just how good those two have been for the Bears and their play consistently empties out the encyclopedia of superlatives. Both are deserving and we hope continue to play at a high level for the Bears for the next few seasons.