The return of Vasher

With icy 47 mph winds swirling in multiple directions, Nathan Vasher waited as Joe Nedney's 52-yard field-goal attempt last year at Chicago got knocked down short of the goalposts by the violent gusts. The Bears cornerback caught the ball in the back of the end zone, then embarked on the longest scoring play in NFL history, an 108-yard return that Vasher relives here while talking Bears and 49ers.

The 2005 Pro Bowler, who will start at right cornerback in Sunday's game at Soldier Field, talks about that game-swaying return on the final play of the first half - which turned a 3-0 San Francisco lead into a sudden 7-3 advantage for the Bears at halftime - while giving his takes on several subjects regarding the Bears and 49ers and the upcoming game between the two teams.

On if anyone has called him about the 108-yard return this year or last year: "No, I don't think so. There was some backlash the first week after it happened, but nothing else more or less after that. It was all positive, and during the course of the game to give us a chance to win the ball game. No, nothing more than fans saying that it was one of the more memorable plays. That's about it."

On his reflections of that record-breaking return: "Our special teams coach Dave Toub told me to back peddle towards the end zone. We had anticipated the wind picking up. We had some crazy winds during the week, and we anticipated that if we had a long field goal, back up before the snap and try to catch it. We had practiced it during the week, but we didn't think that we could get a chance to actually run it in the game. I'm glad we did."

On how it feels to hold that record: "It's definitely something special, and a blessing. It will have to take a great effort for someone to break it. If anything, I'm just very excited about our start this year, being 6-0 and trying to capitalize on that."

On if they will be replaying his return years from now: "Yeah, I hope so. Hopefully, we can take trips out to Ohio and see it in the Hall of Fame."

On how often he catches the play on TV: "I'm sure this week I will see it a whole lot."

On when he realized he would return it for the touchdown: "Maybe midway through. Catching it was the hard part because of the winds. I know I made a spin move and when I got outside I felt I had a chance to take it all the way."

On if he was surprised the 49ers attempted the long field goal amid those conditions: "It was kind of hard to tell. I think they have confidence in their field-goal kicker, and I knew it was going to be tough. I didn't know if he was going to make it or miss it, but I was going to be back there in case he missed it."

On if that play helped him get to the Pro Bowl: "I don't think so. More or less, that was one play, and a special teams play at that. I had a remarkable season last year with eight interceptions, with some of them for touchdowns and a lot of them in the course of winning ball games on one of the best defenses in the league. I think that return was a small part."

On if he has always had good hands: "Yeah, I have. I played wide receiver in high school and in college. I was recruited as a wide receiver out of high school in with the same draft class as Roy Williams from Texas. I felt I could take those same skills to the other side of the ball and get turnovers. Getting turnovers is something that is valued in the league, and I think I am one of the best at it."

Of all his catches, if this one was the best: "It was right up there because of the difficulty of it. Catching the ball over your head or over your shoulder and keeping my feet in bounds was probably the toughest part about it. It was a great play."

On if that play in particular set up the Bears for the rest of the season: "We knew that we were a good football team. When you are able to make a play like that, it definitely sends a message to your team that you can't ever stop on any given play or give up. I think it was just one of those plays that helped us win. I've never seen an ugly win, so you have to be able to pull out games like that."

On if the play has a nickname: "No, do you guys have a name for it out there?"

On the impact of the Bears losing Pro Bowl safety Mike Brown: "Mike Brown is definitely one of our leaders and we are a better team with him on the field. We do have some guys who can step in and are ready to make some plays for us. I think our depth is definitely one of our strengths in the defensive backfield, so if anything happens we have guys who are ready to step in and make plays."

On what it was like playing cornerback amid those conditions in last year's game against the 49ers: "When you get in games like that, you really can't get involved because the weather and conditions won't allow you to. When we were on the same side of the field, we had to run the ball as well and try to be as effective as we could because neither team could throw the ball because of the wind."

On if the 2006 Bears defense is better then the 2005 Bears defense: "I think so, just because our draft additions like Danieal Manning, who is a great player who gives us more depth and athleticism. Also, we're better because we've been in this system a little longer. This is my third year in the system, and I feel like we have that much more maturity from the defensive front to the defense's back. Everyone also understands what we want to do and accomplish on the defensive side a little bit more."

On if his defensive philosophy this year is the same as last year's (not giving up any touchdowns): "Yeah, and I think that's why we finished up at the top of the league. It's more or less an attitude, where that's the name of the game. We don't want to give up any points, ad we take pride with that."

On his overall impressions of the 49ers this year: "I think Alex is a great quarterback. He's a young guy, but he's shown a lot of promise with his athletic ability. He's been able to get out on the edges and make plays to the wide receivers. San Francisco ranks in the tops as far as rushing with Frank Gore, who is a special running back. We'll definitely have our hands full with him."

On the Bears coming back after the bye week and a big Monday night win: "I think the bye week did us a lot of good. I think it came at the right time where we had a lot of guys banged up and just coming off the Arizona game was exhausting for us. We had the week off, and now I think everybody is ready for the second half of the regular season, and to go on another run."

On if the 49ers offense is similar to the Bears offense: "I don't think so. I think schematically, I think our offense does other things. I don't want to get into it because I don't exactly know what they do. I think San Francisco does a great job of getting the ball to their playmakers and letting them do something after they get the ball."

On how much his high school football coach helped him realize his potential: "I think he was the most important influence. Early on, I never had aspirations to go to college, because not many people from my high school went, especially on an athletic scholarship. I was blessed enough to have a coach who came from the Houston area, and just show me that I could play at the next level, and help me to get eligible. He helped me get prepped for things like the SAT, the ACT, and other things that I had no idea about. He helped me get things together as far as my classwork, and he basically told me that if I did that, I would have the opportunity to go to any college in America. I definitely believed in that. His name is Larry Norton."

On if he was on Anquan Boldin during the second half of the Arizona game two weeks ago: "I think I was towards the end. We had some injuries, and we wanted to match up on a couple of their receivers, and that gave us the best opportunity to win."

On if he expects to be going against the best receiver on the opposing team from here on out: "I don't know, I think that'll be the coaches decision because we are such a heavy Cover 2 team. We really don't game plan around one person, so it will be something we talk about during the course of the week."


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