Two new starters on defense and the man who was charged with filling the special-teams void created by the departure of Tim Shaw helped the Bears excel this season. And while they didn't get much publicity nationally, they didn't go unnoticed.
USA Today named defensive end Israel Idonije, safety Chris Harris and special-teams ace Corey Graham to their annual All-Joe team. Bears workhorse running back Matt Forte also made the team, which has been an annual tradition for the newspaper since 1992. It's a tribute to Joe Phillips, a 14-year defensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs who did his job in workmanlike fashion without getting a lot of attention.
It's a task to identify some of the unsung heroes around the league, and they picked three players on the Bears who were critical to success this season. Idonije tied Julius Peppers for the Bears' lead with eight sacks and as the report noted, the veteran has a knack for blocking kicks. Harris helped solidify the secondary, although his play didn't go completely unnoticed: He was a second-team Associated Press All-Pro selection. Graham led the Bears with 25 special-teams tackles, five less than Shaw had last season when he was named to the All-Joe team.
Forte, who helped carry the offense for the second half of the season, was selected after his 1,069-yard season that also included 547 yards receiving, third on the team.