Simply Heartbreaking

For the Chicago Bears, it was just another miracle. For the Cleveland Browns, a 27-21 overtime loss at Soldier Field was simply heartbreaking.

CHICAGO - For the Chicago Bears, it was just another miracle. For the Cleveland Browns, a 27-21 overtime loss at Soldier Field was simply heartbreaking

For the second week in a row, Mike Brown intercepted a pass in overtime and returned it for a touchdown, completing an unimaginable come-from-behind victory for the Bears.

With just 34 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the Browns held a commanding 21-7 lead. That was just enough time, however, for the Bears to complete 9-yard touchdown pass from Shane Matthews to Marty Booker, field a successful onside kick, and send the game into overtime with a last-second, 34-yard Hail Mary from Matthews to running back James Allen.

Just 2:50 into the extra session, Bears' defensive end Bryan Robinson tipped a Tim Couch pass high into the air. The bail sailed into the waiting arms of Brown, who waltzed 16 yards into the end zone to break the Browns' hearts.

Just one week earlier, Brown broke the hearts of the San Francisco 49ers, pulling in a deflected pass that deflected off of receiver Terrell Owens and returning it for a game-winning touchdown in overtime.

"Two weeks in a row, it's an unbelievable feeling," said Bears' coach Dick Jauron. "Again, to finish the game that way ... You never give up. You've got to give it everything you've got for 60 minutes, and that's what we've done."

The Browns put themselves in position for an emotional road victory by giving it everything they had for more than 59 minutes. Their inability to close out the win in the final minute disturbed Browns coach Butch Davis.

"You've got to be able to finish games," said Davis. "You've got to be able to put people away. When you get a lead like that and with that little time left, you've got to get the game over with.

"It hurts. If it doesn't hurt and break your heart, then (the game) doesn't mean anything to you. I know how hard our players played, I know how much they wanted to win the game, and I know how much blood and energy they spilled out there."

After cutting the Browns' lead to 7 points on Bookers' 9-yard touchdown grab, the Bears came up with the improbable when backup linebacker Bobby Howard recovered an onside kick at the Browns' 47-yard line. Bears' kicker Paul Edinger put the perfect English on the kick, which took a high bounce just off the hands of Browns' safety Percy Ellsworth.

"It bounced up over me to the second man in the line (Browns' wide receiver JaJuan Dawson), and then when the ball hit the ground, it was a free for all," said Ellsworth. "Everybody was fighting for it."

Ellsworth just got his hands on the ball again 28 seconds later - the game's most crucial play. On the final play of regulation, Matthews lofted a Hail-Mary pass high into the right corner of the end zone. Ellsworth battled Booker for the jump ball, just managing to tip it back towards the goal line with both hands. Bears running back James Allen, who was following the play, lunged for the ball, pulling it in just inches before it hit the end-zone turf.

"We have probably practiced an end-of-game situation like that, conservatively, 25-to-40 times since mini camp," said Davis. "We end at least one practice a week with a situation like that. You try to get (the ball) at its highest point, and spike it if you can. If there is an opportunity to catch it cleanly. If you can't, you try to bat it to the ground ... I think that (Ellsworth) may have been trying to spike it, and then the guy comes running from the 5-yard line, dives, lays out and makes the catch."

The exhausted Browns defense managed to hold the Bears three-and-out on the first possession of overtime, but three plays into the Browns' first drive, Mike Brown broke the Browns' heart with the interception return that completed the comeback.

"I was right in the right spot again," said Brown. "I guess it's just luck. When (Robinson) batted the ball up into the air ... I thought `I can't believe it. Here we go again.' I got the ball and just went in for the score and we won the game."

The Browns' loss spoiled a heroic comeback by defensive end Courtney Brown, who scored a touchdown on a 25-yard fumble return, dominated Bears' left tackle Blake Brockermeyer in recording three sacks and batting down two passes in his first game of the season.

Brown gave the Browns a quick 7-0 when he scooped up a fumble that was created by Wali Rainer's vicious sack of Matthews on the second play of the game. The second-year defensive end, who missed the season's first six games with a sprained posterior cruciate injury, returned the fumble 25 yards for the first touchdown of his young career.

"I thought Courtney played extremely well for us, far better than I ever dreamed he would come back and play in his very first game," said Davis. "He was a real presence. He probably played more than he would have with (defensive end) Keith McKenzie getting injured ... He had a great presence in the pass rush. He showed why he was such a high pick in the draft."

The Browns lost McKenzie for the rest of the season with a fractured left ankle late in the first quarter. The injury forced the Browns into a three-man rotation at defensive end with Brown, Greg Spires and Tyrone Rogers.

Courtney Brown's first-quarter touchdown was the only scoring the Browns could muster in the first half, as the team's offense struggled to just 75 net yards. The Bears offense wasn't much better, scoring only on a game-tying, 2-yard touchdown run with 20 seconds left in the third quarter.

Couch put the Browns' attack back on track after halftime, completing 6-of-7 passes in the third quarter for 124 yards, including touchdown throws of 3 yards to H-back Mike Sellers and 55 yards to wide receiver Kevin Johnson.

After the game, Couch sat stunned in front of his locker, amazed that his team had allowed the 14-point lead to slip through its fingers.

"When you are up 21-7 with 32 seconds to go, you feel like you've got the game won," said Couch, who completed 14-of-23 passes for 211 yards in the game. The game-ending interception was the first he had thrown in over a month, dating back to the Browns' Sept. 30 win in Jacksonville.

"I've never felt this bad after a game. We are playing such a great football game at their place and we are up 14 points with 32 seconds left. You feel like you could win one for your team on the road and take a big step forward, but everything changed  real quick."

Despite the loss, the Browns (4-3) kept pace with the AFC Central Division leading Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2), who lost 13-10 to the Baltimore Ravens . The Browns can pull into a first-place tie next week with a victory at home over the Steelers.

"This was an ugly lesson that the team learned," said Browns' linebacker Jamir Miller. "I hope everyone took it to heart ... We have to get over this one quick because we have the Steelers next week."


The OBR Top Stories