Big play? No sweat

Two bags of intravenous fluid may have been a little far to go, but if Mike Brown was trying to outdo himself in the Bears' season opener Sunday, he may actually have pulled it off.

After firmly establishing himself last season as grand wizard of the Bears' magic show, Brown reinvented himself by setting up the game-winning drive with a fourth-quarter interception.

Before that, though, he had spent the afternoon distinguishing himself mainly by sustaining a debilitating case of dehydration.

With the on-turf temperature soaring as high as 118 degrees, several players on both teams succumbed to the heat in one way or another, but none as conspicuously as Brown, who vomited on the sideline and twice came out of the game for stretches to be administered an IV.

So moved by the performance was Bears quarterback Jim Miller—or perhaps numb from the repeated questions—that he promptly nominated the third-year free safety for Hall of Fame consideration.

"I don't want to say too much, but I think he is destined to go to Canton," Miller said. "That's the type of player he is. He's like a Ronnie Lott. You can put him in that class. The guy's unbelievable."

Brown, who had game-winning interception returns in overtime in consecutive games last season, was rendered temporarily speechless by the proclamation.

"I just love to play," he said. "That's a great compliment from Jim. I don't think I'm in that category. I'm just a solid football player who loves to play, and I just go out there and try to do the best I can."

That was made especially difficult on Sunday as three Bears players received IV fluids and virtually all described conditions as nearly unbearable on the Astroplay surface.

"You had to come to the sideline and put ice under your feet because it was so hot," Brian Urlacher said. "We didn't experience that in the preseason because we played at night. That was the hottest game I've ever been in."

That would be saying something, considering that Urlacher played college football in New Mexico.

"Yeah, but in college it wasn't humid and you didn't have to run around on that turf," Urlacher said.

"It was an exhausting game," Miller said. "Those ground-up tires [that compose the foundation of the surface] the sun just beats on, and you can just feel the heat emanating from the field while you're sitting over the ball. It took its toll on both teams."

Brown said he was more vulnerable to heat exhaustion because he was held out of all four exhibition games with a broken hand.

"I really wasn't prepared for that," he said. "I wish I could have played in the preseason games. That really hurt me because game speed is faster and it got the adrenaline going and my body just wasn't ready for it."

Brown, who argued his way back into a game in which he sustained a concussion last season, said there was no arguing this time.

"It wasn't that I couldn't breathe; my lungs were fine," he said. "I was just overheated. I couldn't cool off and it was causing me to feel nauseated. I felt comfortable running. I just felt sick and really, really weak. I had to get off the field. If I didn't get off, I would've hurt our team, and I can't do that."

He has, in fact, carved a career out of saving them, and Sunday was no different as Brown stepped in front of Vikings receiver Derrick Alexander at the Bears' 33-yard line and returned the ball 16 yards with 2:34 left in regulation.

The Bears' offense then took over with an eight-play, 51-yard drive that resulted in the game-winning touchdown.

"I just happened to be in the spot I was supposed to be," Brown said. "With them throwing the ball, something's going to happen eventually, and I just happened to be the guy to make the play."

Makes it sound like a routine occurrence.