If there is one thing that is most impressive about Alshon Jeffery’s emergence in his second season, it’s that the Bears aren’t surprised or awed by anything the wide receiver does.
Jeffery one-upped his franchise record for receiving yards in a game in Sunday’s 23-20 overtime loss to the Vikings, catching 12 passes for 249 yards to top the 218-yard effort he had in Week 5 against the Saints.
There were some empty yards in that effort, big plays at the end of each half, but there was no fluff in this effort.
Jeffery, a former South Carolina star, had an 80-yard touchdown, outrunning cornerback Chris Cook and safety Jamarca Sanford. Then Jeffery elevated over Cook to snatch a pass high out of the air for a 46-yard touchdown, infuriating Cook, who bumped side judge Laird Hayes and was ejected from the game.
He now leads the team with 1,109 yards and has 70 receptions with five touchdowns, averaging 15.8 yards per catch. Brandon Marshall has 78 catches for 990 yards and nine touchdowns. That means the Bears are maybe one Marshall catch from having multiple 1,000-yard receivers for the first time since Jeff Graham and Curtis Conway in 1995.
“All of the records, that is fine, that is good,” Jeffery said. “But I just want to win.”
Some of the coverage shifted toward Marshall has opened things up for Jeffery, but lately he’s just winning individual battles as he has had more than 100 yards in five of the last nine games. It has diversified the passing game for Josh McCown and Jay Cutler.
“He’s coming into his own,” running back Matt Forte said. “Alshon is doing what he’s supposed to do. He’s out there making plays and catching deep balls and being that downfield threat, and also jumping over guys.”
McCown knew he was safe putting the ball up for Jeffery near the pylon despite tight coverage because the 6-foot-3, 216-pounder has a “big range where he can go get the ball.”
“He’s just a heck of a player,” McCown said. “He works at it. We’ve got to be able to utilize both guys and we are.”
Jeffery’s strong hands and ability to catch the ball at its highest point make him difficult to defend, even when he’s covered.
“He exploded into the air and elevated,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said of the 46-yard TD. “That’s what we’ve seen him do. That’s what we’ve been talking about. Guys who have been with us since training camp, we’ve been talking about his work ethic and his day-to-day preparation.”
The Lions’ Calvin Johnson is the only receiver in the NFC with more yards than Jeffery, and you can make a good case the Bears should have two wideouts in the Pro Bowl. But individual accolades, at this point, are meaningless to Jeffery, the team’s second-round pick a year ago.
“My standard for myself is the sky is the limit,” he said. “I want to be the best.”