What to take away Bears-wise from the Pro Bowl

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What to take away Bears-wise from the Pro Bowl

The score of the Pro Bowl 62-35 doesnt especially matter. Neither does the winner (the NFC).

But a few of the production numbers of participating Bears make for some interesting musing.

Julius Peppers had two sacks, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits. Charles Tillman was credited with three solo tackles and a pass deflection, although his appearances on any highlight reels will be as victim on TD catches, and Tim Jennings had four solo tackles. Henry Melton had a quiet game with a pass-block.

But the stats are less important than the statement that someone like Peppers was making. He turned 33 a little over a week ago and yet there he was with something looking suspiciously like effort. Same with Tillman, wholl be 32 next month.

Why this matters a little bit is because of the constant questioning surrounding the aging Bears defense.

Consider some other old Pro Bowl selections: San Francisco DE Justin Smith (busy in New Orleans rather than Hawaii) will be 34 in September. 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers, good enough for last years Pro Bowl, will be 32 in July. Jared Allen is 31. Robert Mathis is 32.

The punch line is not hand-wringing shouldnt be over how long Peppers, Tillman, Lance Briggs or Brian Urlacher (presuming a re-signing) can dotter around. Theyre not the problem.

Its whether the Bears can re-sign Jennings, Melton and Nick Roach, and whether Shea McClellin, Stephen Paea and even one of the starting third-round safeties (Chris Conte, Major Wright), and others, take a next huge step.

The 49ers are an elite defense with age because of a first-round home runs in Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis, but also a fourth-round nugget in safety Dashon Goldson, and a third-round hit on linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who was selected 16 picks after the Bears grabbed Wright to fill a significant safety need.

Clarifying

A reader was good enough to question an item last week regarding trade scenarios involving the Bears and wide receiver Anquan Boldin. The item was a whimsical look at what-ifs for the Bears, how they could have had Joe Montana once upon a time (every team could have) on up to a couple of Pro Bowl linemen who went elsewhere in past drafts.

The Bears might have had Boldin back in 2009 and 2010, sources confirmed, but were only willing to go as high as a No. 2 initially. The Cardinals wanted a No. 1 and more at one point, and ended up with a couple of lower picks from Baltimore instead. All of that was pre-Phil Emery, who did land a projected impact wideout with his first No. 2 when he grabbed Alshon Jeffery in that round last draft. Boldin and Jeffery were in the same paragraph but not in any transaction.

Sorry for any confusion, which lay in the prose, not the pros.

Brandon Marshall doesn't remember 3 TD game from Bears-49ers in 2014 because he was on pain pills

Brandon Marshall doesn't remember 3 TD game from Bears-49ers in 2014 because he was on pain pills

Remember back in 2014 when the Bears rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the 49ers 28-20 in San Francisco on Sunday Night Football?

Well, Brandon Marshall doesn't.

And he had three of the four touchdown catches, two of them coming in the last quarter.

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The former Bears wide receiver, who had been dealing with a high ankle sprain, said he took pain pills before the game and doesn't recall much of it, including the incredible one-handed grab that went viral.

"I don't really remember much about that game because I worked really hard to get back from a high ankle (sprain)," Marshall said during a conference call Wednesday. "I'll say it, I took a couple pain pills that masked the pain. I really wasn't supposed to play. I came back from a high ankle (sprain) within 10 days. I was supposed to be out four to six weeks. I don't remember much from that game. I just remember catching those balls. And that was pretty much it."

If only Bears fans could forget that season entirely, which ended in a 5-11 record and the end of the Marc Trestman era.

Bears win over 49ers nets DE Akiem Hicks NFL defensive honor

Bears win over 49ers nets DE Akiem Hicks NFL defensive honor

It may have been just a distant similarity to players on an MLB cellar-dweller earning a Cy Young or MVP award (which happens in Chicago, a lot – Andre Dawson, Ernie Banks twice), but to the Bears it matters. Defensive end Akiem Hicks was named NFC defensive player of the week after his dominating performance in the Bears win last Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers, and he is not alone among Bears getting recognition after one of their few victories.

Never mind that the victory moved the Bears to 3-9 and came over a team losing its 11th straight game. What Hicks accomplished – two sacks, 10 tackles, a quarterback hit, a forced fumble – was being a force in the Bears’ domination of the 49ers and has been part of the emotional core of a team that has lost but not folded.

“It’s easy to say, ‘We’re not getting the results we want,’ but guys have invested,” Hicks said. “I’ve told guys, ‘just think about the hours you’ve invested, to get your body and mind ready for a 16-game season. Why would you put all that work in and then, when you don’t get the results you want, just quit?’"

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Jordan Howard is one of the nominees for the FedEx Air & Ground NFL player of the week. Howard, who posted his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the year, could be a double-winner: He also is among the nominees for Pepsi NFL rookie of the week, as is teammate Leonard Floyd (two sacks, safety, four tackles).

Voting on the latter two awards is still open.

Hicks’ play vs. San Francisco boosted him to a career-best six sacks, and he credited Bears coaches afterwards with giving him opportunities to rush the passer, not simply be utilized as a run-stopper. He has been everything and perhaps a little more than the Bears anticipated when they signed him this offseason to a two-year contract worth $10 million, with $5 million guaranteed.

“I think he's done well,” said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “It's a credit to him, a credit to Jay [Rodgers, defensive line coach]. Akiem has kept improving throughout the season, and he's been one of the guys that have been there each and every week, playing a lot of plays for us, and he's been a steady bell cow for us in there.”