After finishing in last place in the NFC North each of the previous four seasons, the Bears rebounded this year to win the division championship.
That team success has translated into individual accolades for five Bears players who have been selected to represent the NFC in the Pro Bowl.
The group consists of outside linebacker Khalil Mack, defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, cornerback Kyle Fuller, safety Eddie Jackson and return specialist Tarik Cohen. Mack, Fuller, Jackson and Cohen were all chosen as starters.
The Bears had a total of five players selected the previous four seasons—including none last year—when they compiled records of 5-11, 6-10, 3-13 and 5-11.
Seven more Bears were chosen as alternates this year: Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, center Cody Whitehair, left tackle Charles Leno Jr., tight end Trey Burton, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd and inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith.
Mack has now been voted to four straight Pro Bowls, with the first three coming when he played for the Raiders. This season he leads the Bears and is tied for sixth in the NFL with 12.5 sacks, the most by a Bears player since Hall of Famer Richard Dent also recorded 12.5 in 1993. Mack is also tied for first in the NFL with six forced fumbles.
Acquired by the Bears Sept. 1 in a blockbuster trade with Oakland, Mack was named the NFC defensive player of the month for September after compiling five sacks, four forced fumbles and one interception that he returned 27 yards for a touchdown.
"God is good," Mack said. "Thank you to the Bears fans for giving me the opportunity to represent Chicago in the Pro Bowl. We also have a few of my guys with me. Congratulations to Kyle, Akiem, Eddie and Tarik."
This will be the first Pro Bowl for Hicks, Fuller, Jackson and Cohen.
Hicks has recorded 51 tackles, six sacks, three forced fumbles, 14 quarterback hits and a team-leading 11 tackles-for-loss. He also scored a touchdown on a 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal against the Giants Dec. 2, becoming the Bears' first defensive lineman to rush for a TD since William "Refrigerator" Perry in Super Bowl XX.
"Being selected to the Pro Bowl is an honor," Hicks said. "I have played the game of football my entire life and this is the greatest accolade I've ever achieved. To be respected by my peers and the greatest fans in professional sports is an honor. I'm extremely proud to represent the Bears organization along with the City of Chicago."
Fuller is tied for the NFL lead with a career-high seven interceptions, the most by a Bears player since cornerback Tim Jennings led the league with nine in 2012. Fuller also tops the NFL with 21 pass breakups this season after registering 22 last year.
"Thank you to the fans and everyone around the NFL for voting me to the Pro Bowl," Fuller said. "It feels good to see what I've been working on since I was a kid paying off and getting respect around this competitive league as I continue to get better."
Jackson is tied for third in the league with both six interceptions and 15 pass breakups. His pick late in Sunday's division-clinching win over the Packers snapped Aaron Rodgers' NFL-record streak of 402 pass attempts without an interception.
Jackson has scored three defensive touchdowns this season, increasing his career total to five—tied for the most all-time by a player in his first two NFL seasons. Jackson already ranks fourth in Bears history in defensive TDs behind Charles Tillman (9), Mike Brown (7) and Lance Briggs (6).
"I would like to thank God, the City of Chicago and the Bears organization for the opportunity," Jackson said. "I'd also like to thank my teammates and coaches for always helping me get better on and off the field and stepping up to challenges every week. And last but not least, the greatest fans in the world. Without you none of this would be possible."
Cohen leads the NFL with 413 punt return yards. Earlier this year he became only the second player in NFL history to compile at least 500 yards via rushing, receiving, punt returns and kickoff returns in his first 25 games.
"I'm tremendously honored," Cohen said. "I'd like to share this achievement with everyone on my punt return group and also my special-teams coaches."
This is the first time the Bears have had five players voted to the Pro Bowl since 2013 when running back Matt Forte, receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, guard Kyle Long and cornerback Tim Jennings made it.
This is the first time that four defensive players were chosen since 2012 when Jennings, cornerback Charles Tillman, defensive end Julius Peppers and defensive tackle Henry Melton were picked.
The Bears did not have any defensive players voted to the Pro Bowl the past four seasons from 2014-17. But that changed this year with a unit that leads the NFL in takeaways (35), interceptions (26), interception return touchdowns (5), lowest opponent passer rating (73.0), three-and-out percentage (.262), fewest rushing TDs (5), fewest red-zone drives allowed (36) and fewest plays of at least 20 yards permitted (41).
Pro Bowl players are selected by the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches, with each group accounting for one-third of the vote. The Pro Bowl will kick off at 2 p.m. (CT) on Sunday, Jan. 27 in Orlando, one week before the Super Bowl.
The NFL has announced the initial rosters for the 2018-2019 Pro Bowl in Orlando, FL. Five players will represent the Bears with seven of their teammates selected as alternates for the league's annual all-star game.