Success of Defense Starts Up Front

Keith Traylor's 67-yard interception return was not the first time the defensive tackle has had a brush with the end zone. In 1997 he returned his only other career pick for a touchdown going 62 yards for the score.

"I got in the end zone last time," Traylor said. "I was about 25 pounds lighter."

Traylor, who came into the league as a linebacker, showed he still has some athletic ability left in his 32-year-old body.

"The ball landed in my hands and I ran for as long as I could," Traylor said. "I was looking for someone to pitch it to, but nobody showed up."

Dick Jauron said he thought about Traylor aggravating a lingering hamstring injury during the slow developing return, but the coach still thought the play could have resulted in a touchdown if Traylor and cornerback Jerry Azumah could have connected.

"It looked like Keith looked when Jerry wasn't looking and Jerry was looking when Keith was running, so it never seemed to get it together," Jauron said.

Traylor has been a playmaker for the Bears all season along side Ted Washington. The duo signed with Chicago in the off-season as free agents. The two 300 pound plus tackles have changed the attitude of the Bears defense, especially in the run game.

Chicago allowed 1,318 rushing this season, which is the least allowed in franchise history breaking the record set by the1 1985 squad.

Jauron said that most wining teams in the NFL have two things in common. Being able to run the ball offensively and stopping the run defensively Chicago has been one of the top rushing defenses the entire season allowing just 3.5 yards per carry.

Although, the improvement in the defense started with the front four the success of the group isn't due solely to the defensive line.

"You know whether it was the second year for Brian (Urlacher) the third year for Rosey (Colvin) and Warrick (Holdman) just the fact that all those guys came together and played so well was critical for our success too.

"We wanted to get bigger up front. You know we had fast linebackers and we wanted to protect them and let them run and one way to do that was to get bigger people that could hold up two (blockers) you know always take two to block them and these guys definitely do."

The Bears linebackers have matured into arguably the best trio in the NFC. Holdman, Urlacher and Colvin have combined for 372 tackles (235 solo) 18.5 sacks and six interceptions.

The pass defense, which has been criticized at times, still finished the season with more interceptions (17) than opponent touchdown passes (12).

Despite allowing the least amount of points in the league at 203 only one member of the defense was selected to the Pro Bowl. However, it is obvious the group led Chicago to their eight game improvement from last season.

The question remains can Greg Blache and company carry the Bears throughout the postseason and to New Orleans?

Only time will tell.


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