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Bears Win Central

January 07, 2002|From Associated Press

CHICAGO — Keith Traylor was huffing and puffing, his 300-pound-plus body chugging down the field with an interception, his eyes studying where to go and what to do next.

Traylor ran out of steam before scoring Sunday, but the Chicago Bears had more than enough energy to capture their first NFC Central title since 1990.

The Bears (13-3) intercepted three passes and sacked Mark Brunell four times, and Anthony Thomas rushed for 160 yards as Chicago beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, 33-13, to clinch the division.

Traylor's lumbering 67-yard, highlight-film return set up a touchdown that put the Bears up, 20-0, in the third quarter.

"I just followed the ball. When it landed, I said, 'Oh I got it. What should I do now?"' said Traylor, a defensive tackle who played in two Super Bowls with Denver before signing in the off-season with the Bears.

"The ball landed in my hands and I just got as far as I could. I was looking for someone to pitch it to, but no one showed up. I did the best I could. I was trying to get there, but they got me."

The Bears, 5-11 a year ago, will get a week off and then host a playoff game Jan. 19 or Jan. 20.

"Oh, wow, it's hard to even explain," quarterback Jim Miller said outside a jubilant locker room. "It's been a long ride to get to this point. Guys are ecstatic."

Trailing 13-0, Jacksonville's Paul Spicer recovered Miller's fumble after a sack by Marlon McCree. Threatening to get back in the game after a Brunell-to-Keenan McCardell 16-yard pass put the ball on Chicago's 20, the Jaguars (6-10) were quickly turned away by the mammoth Traylor.

He reached up and swatted Brunell's next pass into the air, tipped it again, grabbed it and took off. Two plays later, Miller connected with David Terrell with a nine-yard pass to make it 20-0.

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