Akiem Hicks earned his massive and freshly minted paycheck Sunday.
A day after signing a four-year, $48 million contract extension, with $30 million guaranteed, the Bears’ 6-5, 332-pound defensive end showed why the Bears were in such a hurry to get the deal done. Hicks had two sacks and three quarterback hits in the Bears’ 23-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at Soldier Field.
“I know that’s going to be the expectation going forward and it always is on my mind,” Hicks said. “I’m going to continue to be who I am and put the best [performance] I can on tape.”
As for the extension . . . “It’s a blessing to be here for another four years,” Hicks said. “I’m happy that this organization believes in me and wants me to continue to be a part of their team.”
Hicks spearheaded an encouraging defensive effort against a Falcons team that led the NFL in scoring last season (33.8 points per game — 4.5 points per game better than the runner-up Saints).
“It’s everything I’ve said throughout OTAs and training camp . . . our defense is going to be nasty. It’s going to be tenacious,” Hicks said. “We’re going to get after the quarterback. We’re going to hit people. I think that’s what we did [against the Falcons]. Came up short in some situations, but overall we were pretty effective.”
The day wasn’t perfect for the Bears’ defense or for Hicks. Despite his excellence, he committed a costly penalty in the third quarter when he was called for roughing the passer with a hit on quarterback Matt Ryan on a third-and-eight play that was more low than late, but still an infraction the way the game is called today. It negated a Ryan incompletion that would have forced a punt. Instead, the Falcons drove for a field goal that gave them a 13-10 lead with 2:10 left in the quarter.
“It’s the kind of thing that happens in the flow of the game,” Hicks said. “You want it back and you can’t have it back. You’ve got to get your mind right and go forward.”
Hicks laughed when asked if he thought it was the correct call.
“I’m going to take my licking and keep it moving,” he said. “I can’t do anything about it. It’s part of the game and I have to accept it.”
Coach John Fox, while pleased with Hicks’ overall performance, had no quarrel with the call.
“I didn’t really see his penalty. It was after the play and my eyes were downfield,” Fox said. “The communication I had was that it was probably legit.”
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