Urlacher Wins Defensive Player of the Year

Lake Forest – The Bears defense has been recognized as the best in the league throughout the year. On Friday, their best player picked up the Associated Press Defensive Player award of the year award. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher received 34 of 50 first place votes to take the honor.

"Best player on the best defense, bottom line, he should be the Defensive MVP," said S Mike Brown, who has been teammates with Urlacher for six seasons. "The thing is he makes a lot of impact plays, but also just him being on the field teams have to scheme against him so they have to do different things to stay away from him cause he's a great player. He's the leader of our team and we count on him to make a whole bunch of plays and I think he's done that this year."

A little more than a year ago Urlacher was named the most overrated player in the NFL in a Sporting News article. In 2004, the Bears were 0-7 without Urlacher on the field, as he suffered through three different leg injuries that eventually landed him on injured serve.

"I was mad when it came out and I was a little frustrated, but the people who know me and my teammates and the organization knows what type of player I am and that's all that really matters," Urlacher said of the article.

This year Urlacher bounced back in a big way. En route to being named to the Pro Bowl for the fifth time in six seasons, he led the team with 171 tackles to go with 10 stops for loss, 6.0 sacks, 7 pass breakups and a forced fumble.

The Bears lack of nationally televised games seemed like an obstacle, but Urlacher took advantage of the team's only Sunday Night broadcast on ESPN. He made several highlight plays in Chicago's 16-3 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

The Bears finished No. 2 in total defense, but held the title until Week 17, when Urlacher and the starters watched the chance to claim the title slip away with reserves on the field.

However, Chicago gave up a league low 202 points, which was 43 less than any other team in the NFL. The dominance was recognized league wide as three other players on the unit each received a vote for the award: LB Lance Briggs, CB Nathan Vasher and DE Alex Brown.

"That's an amazing feat there," Urlacher said. "It's usually three or four guys who gets votes for the award but we had four on there, just shows you how good our defense was."

The success of the defense has given Ron Rivera an opportunity to be considered as a head-coaching candidate.

"I think the one thing people don't understand is what Brian has meant to us," Rivera said. "All you've got to do is compare last season to this season and you'll see the impact. He's been very healthy for us this (year) and he has done some tremendous things."

The only other Bear to win the award was Hall of Fame middle linebacker Mike Singletary in 1985 and '88. However, Urlacher believes he has a long way to go.

"I know I can get better, I think our coaches will say the same thing," Urlacher said. "I make a lot of mistakes, luckily I can still run a little bit so that makes up for a lot of mistakes I make, but I've got a long way to go. It's amazing for me to see how much better I can get."

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