Chiefs send a league-most eight players to the Pro Bowl
Strong safety Eric Berry, offensive tackle Branden Albert, running back Jamaal Charles, outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, nose tackle Dontari Poe, cornerback Brandon Flowers and punt returner Dexter McCluster will represent Kansas City on Jan. 26 in Honolulu. The eight selections tied San Francisco for the most in the NFL.
Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry made it three for three Friday night.
Berry was one of eight Chiefs to be selected to the 2014 Pro Bowl, the third time he’s made it in the three seasons he’s been healthy since joining the club as its first-round draft pick in 2010.
But Berry expressed a common theme among the Chiefs who were selected in a combination of balloting by fans, players and coaches.
“It’s exciting,” said Berry, “but I’ll deal with that when it comes. It’s something I like to do. I’ve been voted to the Pro Bowl twice already, but I don’t have any (Super Bowl) rings. “That’s what I’m really itching for. It’s a good deal. I like it. But I’m very focused on this next game and the playoffs and trying to get a ring.”
Berry was joined by offensive tackle Branden Albert, running back Jamaal Charles, outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, nose tackle Dontari Poe, cornerback Brandon Flowers and punt returner Dexter McCluster. The eight selections, which tied San Francisco for the most in the league, are reflective of the 11-4 record the Chiefs have posted so far in 2013 and are the most since the Chiefs sent nine players to Hawaii in 2003.
Yet there could have been more. Inside linebacker Derrick Johnson, the club’s leading tackler and a two-time Pro Bowler, and punter Dustin Colquitt, who was a Pro Bowler in 2012 and leads the NFL in punts inside the 20, were not chosen.
The selection was the third straight for Hali, the third for Charles, the second for Houston, and the first for Albert, Poe, Flowers and McCluster.
Two additional “need” players will be chosen by each head coach and must be long snappers. The Pro Bowl is Jan. 26 in Honolulu, a week before the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium outside New York City.
“It’s a good accomplishment, but I’d rather be playing in New York, the week after the Pro Bowl. That’s my goal,” said Albert, who is in a contract year and is expected to be in the lineup on Sunday at San Diego after missing three starts with a hyperextended knee. Albert, who has allowed just four sacks in 12 games this season, is the first Chiefs’ tackle to go to the Pro Bowl since Hall of Famer Willie Roaf in 2005.
Charles was the third-leading vote getter among fans, trailing only quarterbacks Peyton Manning of Denver and Drew Brees of New Orleans. Charles, who celebrated his 27th birthday Friday, leads the AFC in rushing with 1,287 yards and leads the Chiefs in receiving with 70 catches for 693 yards. He leads the NFL with 19 touchdowns (12 rushing, seven receiving) and ranks second in the NFL with 1,980 yards from scrimmage. Only two other players in Chiefs history — Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson — have gone over the 2,000-yard mark from scrimmage. Charles set an NFL record for running backs when he caught four touchdown passes on Dec. 15 at Oakland and became the first player in history to record four receiving touchdowns and at least one rushing touchdown in the same game.
“It showed how hard I worked and how hard work pays off,” Charles said. “It’s an honor to have another Pro Bowl season, and I want to thank coach (Andy) Reid for putting me in this position and for giving me the ball like this.”
Houston started the season quickly with three sacks in the season opener at Jacksonville. He had 11 sacks through 11 games before he suffered a hyperextended elbow on Nov. 24. He may return to the lineup Sunday at San Diego.
“That was one of my goals before the season started,” Houston said of his second Pro Bowl. “Everyone has their own personal goal, so (I’m happy) to have made it.”
Hali also has 11 sacks, 10 tackles for a loss and 13 quarterback pressures, and he scored the first two touchdowns of his eight-year career this season with an interception at Jacksonville and fumble recovery at Buffalo.
Poe, the Chiefs’ first-round pick in 2012, has had a breakout season. The 6-foot-3, 345-pounder reported to camp in the best shape of his career. His ability to occupy double-teams has freed Hali and Houston, among others, to get to quarterbacks. Poe has started all 15 games and rarely comes out of the game. He has made 51 tackles, including five for a loss, has 4.5 sacks, seven quarterback pressures and four passes defensed.
“He has done some amazing things this year,” said defensive coordinator Bob Sutton.
Berry ranks second on the team to Johnson with 73 tackles, including 11 for a loss, 3.5 sacks and three interceptions, returning two for touchdowns — one at Philadelphia and one at Oakland.
McCluster is the only punt returner in the NFL with two returns for touchdowns, an 89-yarder against the New York Giants and a 74-yarder at Washington, when he set a franchise record with 177 punt return yards. “I’ve been wanting to get there in the three years prior to this,” said McCluster, the first Chiefs return man to go to the Pro Bowl since Dante Hall in 2003. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. This year I had more opportunities and I took advantage of them.” Flowers, in his sixth season, was a first alternate for the 2012 Pro Bowl. He has one interception and one sack this season, and he has defended both outside speed receivers and inside slot receivers.
For the first time, the Pro Bowl will not be an AFC-NFC matchup. Instead, players were selected without regard to conference. Players will be assigned to teams through a Pro Bowl draft that will take place Jan. 22.
Pro Bowl offense
• Quarterback: Tom Brady, Patriots; Drew Brees, Saints; Peyton Manning, Broncos; Cam Newton, Panthers; Philip Rivers, Chargers; Russell Wilson, Seahawks.
• Wide receiver: Antonio Brown, Steelers; Dez Bryant, Cowboys; Josh Gordon, Browns; A.J. Green, Bengals; Andre Johnson, Texans; Calvin Johnson, Lions; Brandon Marshall, Bears; Demaryius Thomas (Broncos).
• Tackle: Branden Albert, Chiefs; Jason Peters, Eagles; Tyron Smith, Cowboys; Joe Staley, 49ers; Joe Thomas, Bronws; Trent Williams, Washington.
• Guard: Jahri Evans, Saints; Ben Grubbs, Saints; Mike Iupati, 49ers; Logan Mankins, Patriots; Louis Vasquez, Broncos; Marshal Yanda, Ravens.
• Center: Ryan Kalil, Panthers; Alex Mack, Browns; Mike Pouncey, Dolphins; Max Unger, Seahawks.
• Tight end: Jordan Cameron, Browns; Vernon Davis, 49ers; Jimmy Graham, Saints; Julius Thomas, Broncos.
• Running back: Jamaal Charles, Chiefs; Matt Forte, Bears; Frank Gore, 49ers; Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks; LeSean McCoy, Eagles; Adrian Peterson, Vikings.
• Fullback: Marcel Reece, Raiders; Mike Tolbert, Panthers.