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Milestones within reach for Bears

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(Lauren M. Anderson – landerson@shawmedia.com)
Bears defensive end Julius Peppers, helping sack Kansas City Chief's quarterback Tyler Palko on Dec. 4, will join the 110-sack club if he gets one against Minnesota on Sunday.

Perhaps it’s unfair to describe the Bears’ regular-season finale as meaningless.

Mostly meaningless would be more accurate.

As a team, the Bears (7-8) will play for pride when they visit the Minnnesota Vikings (3-12) on Sunday. As individuals, at least a few players on the Bears also will try to achieve statistical milestones before the season ends.

Plenty of truth exists in the phrase, “Figures lie and liars figure.” But players’ final statistics carry significant meaning in contract negotiations to Hall of Fame debates or even future trivia questions on the Soldier Field scoreboard.

In honor of the Bears’ seven wins, here are seven numbers to keep in mind Sunday:

997: Rushing yards by Matt Forte

Three yards. That’s how close Forte came to his third 1,000-yard rushing season in his first four years in the NFL.

But Forte sprained his knee in Week 13, missing three consecutive games before the Bears placed him on injured reserve Tuesday.

He is tied for third in franchise history with two 1,000-yard seasons, trailing Walter Payton (10) and Neal Anderson (3).

140: Tackles by Lance Briggs

The Bears’ tackling title basically has been a two-person contest for the past decade between Briggs and Brian Urlacher. Last season, Urlacher finished first with 146 tackles, but this season Briggs holds a comfortable lead (140 tackles to 125 tackles) over his Pro Bowl teammate entering the last game of the season. On Sunday, Briggs will try to top 150 tackles for the fourth time in his nine-year career.

99: Career sacks by Julius Peppers

Peppers leads the Bears with 10 sacks this season, and he is one shy of joining the exclusive 100-sack club for his career. Only four active players have reached triple digits in sacks: Miami’s Jason Taylor (139.5), Atlanta’s John Abraham (111), Indianapolis’ Dwight Freeney (101.5) and Minnesota’s Jared Allen (101.5). Hall of Famer Bruce Smith is the NFL’s all-time leader with 200 sacks.

27: Field goals by Robbie Gould

Gould has eclipsed 20 field goals for the seventh consecutive season, which is a franchise record. He is tied for fifth in team history with 27 field goals this season, matching Kevin Butler’s production in 1993. It’s possible, albeit unlikely, that Gould will be able to match his own franchise record for field goals in a season. He set the team’s all-time mark with 32 field goals in 2006.

18: Combined return touchdowns by Devin Hester

Hester owns the NFL’s all-time record with 17 kick return touchdowns (12 punt returns, five kickoff returns), and that number increases to 18 when one includes his 108-yard missed field goal return touchdown in 2006. Hall of Fame defensive back Deion Sanders holds the record for most combined return touchdowns with 19, and Hester will match that total with his next return for a score.

8: Consecutive seasons without a 1,000-yard receiver

Make that nine consecutive seasons after Sunday. Wide receiver Johnny Knox leads the Bears with 727 receiving yards but sustained a season-ending back injury in Week 15. Next in line are Forte (490 receiving yards), Roy Williams (447 receiving yards) and Hester (355 receiving yards). The last Bears’ receiver to crack 1,000 yards was Marty Booker, who had 1,189 yards in 2002.

3: Interceptions by four Bears defenders

D.J. Moore, Major Wright, Urlacher and Corey Graham enter the regular season finale in a four-way tie for the team lead with three interceptions apiece. Urlacher led the Bears with five interceptions in 2007, while Moore, Wright and Graham would earn their first individual title if they were able to pick off a pass Sunday. Charles Tillman (2 INTs) also is in the hunt for a share of the team lead.

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