Chicago Bears DL Hicks building on Pro Bowl season
Based on his dominant performance against the Vikings Sunday, Bears DL Akiem Hicks certainly hasn’t let up after being named to his first Pro Bowl.
Hicks picked up 1.5 sacks in Minneapolis to give him 7.5, his second-highest single-season total behind last year’s 8.5, and he led the Bears with 12 additional tackles for loss during the regular season.
Hicks helped the Bears set a dominant tone in the first quarter when he stuffed Dalvin Cook for no gain midway through the first quarter – and then offered a few select words when he went facemask-to-facemask with the Vikings’ running back.
“It was a lot of expletives,” Hicks said. “It was real rough, but that’s football.”
It’s especially rough for opponents when the Bears are playing defense. They’ve allowed just two touchdowns in the last four games. And the defense is even more dominant in the first half, when they’ve allowed just three touchdowns in the last 10 games and none in the last four.
The victory over the Vikings was the Bears’ fifth straight vs. an NFC North opponent since the season-opening loss to the Packers stretched their losing streak in the division to 10 straight.
“Against division opponents, there’s always that feeling when you see them again the next year, where you’re like, ‘Oh man, they kicked our butt last year. We have to go in and play really, really good to win this game.’ Now, everybody has to look at us like that, and that’s what we want.”
But that’ll have to wait for next season. For now, it’s on to the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons, and it’s because of Hicks and the defense that the Bears opened as 6-point favorites at home against the Eagles Sunday at 3:40. They allowed a season-low 164 total yards against the Vikings and an average of just 245 in their last four games. Minnesota converted just 1 of 11 third-down opportunities, by far the Bears’ best effort of the season.
“The third downs were really important for us,” coach Matt Nagy said. “To hold them to one conversion out of 11 attempts -- you win games that way.”
Hicks and NT Eddie Goldman each had three tackles in the regular-season finale, giving Hicks 55 for the season, easily the most of any Bears lineman, while Goldman was second with 39, despite dealing with frequent double-teams on run plays.
“I think we’re approaching excellence, approaching greatness,” Hicks said. “We still have a lot to push for, but I think we’re a really good defense and a really good team.”
Personally, even though he was finally voted to the Pro Bowl this year, Hicks doesn’t consider this his best season, an interesting revelation he made Tuesday afternoon.
“I think last year was my best year,” Hicks said. “I was stronger. I felt more dominant. I feel like my game is still really good. But you feel your body and you know where you’re at. I do think I’ve gotten some of the accolades and some of the honors (this year) that come with playing well and having a team that plays well with you.”
But, depending how his and the Bears’ postseason goes, Hicks could change his mind.