No matter how many times you’ve been to the Pro Bowl, it never gets old. Just ask Patrick Willis, who has gone to the NFL’s annual All-Star game every season in his three-year career.
“It’s a great honor to make the Pro Bowl, to know the players, coaches and fans think you’re the best at what you do,” the 49ers inside linebacker said. “And even though I’ve been a few times now, I’ll never take it for granted.
“Whether you’ve been 10 times or zero times in your career, you have to approach every season the same. You go out and play the best you can, and everything else will take care of itself.”
And while all of the 49ers have that mindset, six in particular have stood out the most in 2010. Now they need you, the 49ers Faithful, to vote for them to make it to the 2011 Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
Here are the six 49ers who are having Pro-Bowl caliber seasons:
LB Patrick Willis
You could say Patrick Willis got his NFL career off to a quick start. After the 49ers made him the 11th-overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, all he did in his first three seasons was lead the league in tackles twice, make three Pro Bowl appearances, and become arguably the best defensive player in the game.
Well, he’s at it again in season No. 4.
Opposing offenses have done whatever they can to take away Willis’ play-making ability in 2010, but it hasn’t worked. You can’t game-plan enough to stop Willis. Through 12 games, the 49ers defensive captain leads the team in tackles with 118 and has set a new career high with 5.0 sacks. His best game came against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 11 when he recorded 15 tackles and 2.0 sacks.
DT Justin Smith
He’s about as consistent as they come, and as reliable too. Defensive tackle Justin Smith has recorded at least 6.0 sacks in eight of his nine NFL seasons, and his current streak of 151 consecutive starts ranks first among active defensive linemen.
For years Smith was perhaps the most underrated defensive lineman in the NFL, but he finally played in his first Pro Bowl last season. He said making the Pro Bowl isn’t something he thinks about, but if Smith finishes this season as well as he started it, he could earn himself a trip to Hawaii for this year’s game. He has had little trouble wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks with a team-high 5.5 sacks, 38 quarterback hits and 55 quarterback pressures. He also has 10 tackles-for-loss.
TE Vernon Davis
After a breakout 2009 season in which Vernon Davis tied an NFL record for tight ends with 13 touchdown receptions, it’s only natural that opposing defenses have keyed in on him this year. But Davis is proving that it takes a lot more than a solid game plan to slow him down.
He leads the team with 674 receiving yards and is tied for the team lead with five touchdown receptions, all while being a leader of the offense. Davis has two games with more than 100 yards receiving, including last week in Green Bay when he set a career high 126 yards to go along with his one touchdown. Davis also had a streak of four consecutive games with a touchdown reception earlier in the year, which tied a career long.
RB Frank Gore
Before he was placed on injured reserve with a fractured hip, Frank Gore was on pace to have one of the best seasons of his six-year career. Through all the changes to the 49ers offense this season, Gore’s production never dipped and he remained the focal point of the team.
He has missed nearly two games with the hip injury, but Gore’s 853 rushing yards still rank him fifth in the NFC. In 10 full games this season he had four 100-yard rushing performances, including a 149-yard game in a win over the Raiders. But Gore was more than just a runner this year, he leads the team with 46 receptions and is one of the best pass-blocking running backs in the game.
LB Takeo Spikes
Thirteen seasons in to his NFL career, and there’s no doubt that Takeo Spikes still has it. The inside linebacker hasn’t lost a step and is second on the team with 92 tackles to go along with his two interceptions and one fumble recovery.
But Spikes is more valuable than the numbers say. His veteran leadership has been priceless for the 49ers this season, keeping the hope and morale high despite the team’s record. He has continued to push him teammates no matter how trying the times have been. He seems to step his game up when the team needed it most, tying a career high with 17 tackles last week against the Green Bay Packers.
P Andy Lee
Punter Andy Lee is looking to make back-to-back Pro Bowl trips, and he certainly has the numbers to do so. Lee is averaging 46 yards per punt, good for fourth in the NFC, and he has downed an NFL-high 24 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
The two-time Pro Bowler has three games in which he has averaged more than 50 yards per punt, and his long on the season is 61 yards.
Tags: Andy Lee, Frank Gore, Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Takeo Spikes, Vernon Davis
Posted in Announcements | 10 Comments »