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Unbelievable, but believe it
You are not going to believe this one.
Remember the San Francisco game last week? When the Bears scored two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter, then won in overtime when safety Mike Brown intercepted a deflected pass and scored the winning touchdown?
Well, they did it again Sunday, this time for a 27-21 win over the Cleveland Browns for their sixth straight victory and a 6-1 record heading into Sunday's showdown for first place in the NFC Central with the Green Bay Packers (5-2).
Two touchdowns in the final 28 seconds, the second on a deflected "Hail Mary" pass in the end zone on a diving catch by running back James Allen. . . . Brown intercepting a pass deflected by defensive end Bryan Robinson and taking it 16 yards for another game-winning touchdown.
"We can't keep doing this," said wide receiver Marty Booker, who caught a 9-yard pass from quarterback Shane Matthews with 28 seconds left to make the score 21-14. "We're giving people heart attacks."
Last Sunday they scored twice in the final 4:08, plus the Brown touchdown. This time they cut it a little closer and surprised even themselves, not to mention what was left of the Soldier Field crowd of 61,569 that was chanting, "Let's go, Bears! Let's go, Bears!"
"I was thinking to myself, `I don't know if I can take too many of these,'" said defensive end Phillip Daniels. "But then I thought some more and said, `Yeah, I can take a lot of these.'"
"I'm telling you," said injured quarterback Jim Miller, "I'm ready to go to Vegas and roll the dice."
But if there was a sense of deja vu, it was much deeper than just a repeat of the 49ers game. On Nov. 7, 1999, Robinson reached up and blocked a Green Bay field goal in "the Walter Payton game" because it was played just days after the death of the legendary Bears running back.
Robinson said afterward that he felt Payton had helped lift him high enough to block the kick. He did not rule Payton out of having a hand in this Sunday's events.
"The whole Walter Payton thing . . . " Robinson said, struggling to find the words he wanted. "We spoke earlier this week about Walter Payton and how much he meant to us. Then two years almost to the day, the same thing happens. It was weird because I didn't feel like I was getting a rush all day. So I said, `I'll just put my hand up now and see what happens.'"
The blocked pass and Brown touchdown capped a furious comeback in a game that looked to be headed anywhere but into the win column for the Bears until the closing seconds. The Bears had committed three turnovers in the game's first 12 minutes, including two interceptions and a fumble on a sack of Matthews that was returned 25 yards by Cleveland defensive end Courtney Brown for a TD on the game's second play.
The Bears scored on a two-minute drive when Anthony Thomas followed center Olin Kreutz into the end zone for a 7-7 tie at halftime. Cleveland scored on its first possession of the second half, then took over at its 8-yard line after a third Matthews interception. The Browns moved to their 45 in three plays, from where Brown had a Tim Couch pass deflect off his hands to wide receiver Kevin Johnson for a 55-yard touchdown pass. It was the second-longest play this season against the Bears' defense and gave Cleveland a 21-7 lead late in the third quarter.
Fifteen minutes later, the Bears got magical.
Starting with 1:52 remaining, Matthews completed six straight passes to engineer a drive from the Bears' 20 to the Cleveland 14 with 32 seconds left. From there he found Booker in the end zone to close the gap to 21-14.
Bobbie Howard then recovered Paul Edinger's onside kick at the Cleveland 47. Matthews passed short twice to Allen, moving the ball to the Browns' 34. "The thinking on that is to set yourself up for the `Hail Mary,'" Matthews said.
As the clock neared :00, Matthews stepped up in the pocket and lofted a pass into a cluster of Bears and Browns in the right side of the end zone. The ball bounced off safety Percy Ellsworth's hands and toward Allen, who dived, caught the ball and landed on top of Booker for the tying touchdown.
"Shane threw the ball where he was supposed to," said coach Dick Jauron. "But you've got to have your stars lined up and somebody looking out for you to have it bounce the way it did."
Walter Payton? Perhaps.
"We're fighters. We are fighters," Robinson declared. "I was looking at Phillip Daniels on the sideline and I said, `If we pull this game out, we are destined to go places.' We are a team of destiny."