Built To Last

Fans vented their frustration when Mark Hatley, the team's vice president of player personnel, was left in control of the April draft and then days later walked out the back door at Halas Hall through a "mutual termination." Worse, he ended up in Green Bay, the Bears' hated rival.

   Next came the arrival of general manager Jerry Angelo from the Bucs and the exit of some popular names such as Jim Flanigan, Mike Wells, Bobby Engram and Thomas Smith.

   Nobody is complaining now that Hatley picked up running back and Offensive Rookie of the Year Anthony Thomas in a second-round steal, or that Angelo dealt disgruntled quarterback Cade McNown to Miami for table scraps.

   Hatley had his faults, like drafting McNown and Curtis Enis, but he also drafted Urlacher and brought in free agent punter Brad Maynard, arguably the team's best pickup.

   He imported Traylor and Washington, guys who were said to be too slow, too fat and too expensive. But they've stuffed the holes and held up offensive linemen, letting fast linebackers behind them make the plays. It was a copycat scheme the Ravens used last season to win a Super Bowl, and it's worked like magic in Chicago.

   Along the way, old-timers like Miller and Williams have had their best seasons, and youngsters in the defense like Rosevelt Colvin (10 1/2 sacks), Urlacher (117 tackles) and Warrick Holdman (109 tackles) have enjoyed breakout years.

   On offense, Thomas had a Bears rookie single-season record 1,183 yards and 25-year-old receiver Marty Booker set a Bears single-season record with 100 catches. He did it without star receiver Marcus Robinson, who torn his knee in late October, by his side.

   "We swept everybody in the division but Green Bay," Mike Brown said. "We're a good football team. I think people recognize that."

   Nobody's doubting that now.

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