LAKE FOREST, IL – The Chicago Bears had five players selected to the 2013 Pro Bowl this season: CB Tim Jennings, WR Brandon Marshall, DT Henry Melton, DE Julius Peppers and CB Charles Tillman. All five players were selected as starters for the NFC. This is the sixth time under Head Coach Lovie Smith that the Bears have had at least four players named to the Pro Bowl.
This is Jennings' first career Pro Bowl nod. The seven-year veteran leads the NFL with a career-high eight interceptions this season, the most by a Bears player since Nathan Vasher also had eight in 2005. Jennings leads the team with 15 pass break ups and has added 66 tackles. He returned one of his interceptions 25 yards for his first career touchdown in Chicago's 23-22 Week 8 victory over Carolina. Jennings' three multi-interceptions contests (Week 1 versus Indianapolis, Week 8 versus Carolina and Week 10 versus Houston) are a franchise single-season record.
"Words can't express how I feel right now," Jennings said today. "This is a good moment. The season hasn't gone as well as I expected or wanted it to. But it's not over yet. For the team goals, we've still got goals ahead of us. But this puts me in a good place right now, just as an individual goal for all the hard work I've put into it. For the season not to go the way I'd like it to, this kind of makes me feel a little better about it.
Named to his fourth career Pro Bowl (2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012 seasons), Marshall becomes the first Bears wide receiver to be named to the Pro Bowl since Marty Booker following the 2002 season. In his first season with the club, Marshall has set Bears single-season records in receptions (113) and receiving yards (1,466), both career-bests and second in the NFL in 2012. His 11 touchdown receptions are tied for sixth most in franchise history, tied for third in the NFL this season and a career-high for the seven-year veteran. His seven 100-yard receiving contests in 2012 are also tied for the most in team single-season history.
This is the first Pro Bowl nod for Melton, who is tied for third in the NFL among defensive tackles with six sacks this season. He is the first Bears defensive tackle to be named to the Pro Bowl since Tommie Harris following the 2007 season. Melton has added two forced fumbles in his fourth NFL season and just his second as a starter at defensive tackle. In those two seasons as a starter (2011-12), Melton has recorded 13 sacks, second most in the NFL among defensive tackles during that time.
"It's an amazing feeling" said Melton. "It's been a long journey from playing running back to defensive end and now being a Pro Bowl defensive tackle. It's an amazing feeling. There are a lot of people that had a hand in helping me and I do appreciate it.""
Peppers was named to the Pro Bowl for the eighth time in his 11-year NFL career, including all three seasons as a member of the Bears. He is the first Bears player since Doug Atkins following the 1961-63 seasons to be named to the Pro Bowl in three-straight seasons as a defensive end. Peppers leads the team with 11.5 sacks and is the first Bears player with double-digit sacks in consecutive seasons since Rosevelt Colvin in 2001 and 2002. He has reached double-digit sacks in eight of his 11 seasons in the NFL. For the season, Peppers has added 26 tackles, four tackles for losses, 19 QB pressures, one forced fumble and a career-high three fumble recoveries.
Tillman was named to his second-consecutive Pro Bowl and is the first Bears defensive back to receive back-to-back Pro Bowl nominations since safety Mark Carrier following the 1990 and 1991 seasons. This season, Tillman paces the NFL with 10 forced fumbles and has three interception return touchdowns to go along with 89 tackles, 13 pass break ups, two fumble recoveries and one tackle for a loss. Since entering the NFL in 2003, Tillman is among the NFL's top 10 in interceptions (33, eighth), interception return yards (606, seventh), interception return touchdowns (eight, tied for second), forced fumbles (39, first) and passes defensed (124, tied for sixth).
"We have a big-play board," Lovie Smith said after practice today, "and Charles has had the record for the last nine years or so. He kind of set the pace with 13. We have a formula that we use to be able to get that 13 number. He's at 21 already with a game to go in the season. Just big play after big play. I couldn't tell you how valuable he is to our team and what he's done. And he's getting older. I keep hearing about how old he is and ‘Over the Hill' gang and all of that, but he's had another career year."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.