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D-DAY : Browner Was Determined to Make a Case for His Defense

When Keith Browner looked downfield and saw nothing but daylight, he could scarcely believe his eyes.

Browner had just made an interception, courtesy of Tyrone Keys, who had batted Dave Krieg’s pass in his direction, and all he had to do was cover 55 yards without dropping the ball or falling down. When he completed his lonesome dash to the end zone Sunday, the Chargers were on their way to a stunning 17-6 victory over the previously unbeaten Seattle Seahawks at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.

“When that happens, you just enjoy it,” Browner said later. “To see the whole field with nobody there, all I could I think of was six points.”

The game was only 5 minutes 33 seconds old when Browner scored those six points, but neither team was the same thereafter. The Chargers suddenly became inspired, and the Seahawks went into a funk from which they never recovered.

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Browner also intercepted a pass in the third quarter, blunting a Seattle drive that had reached the Charger 43-yard line.

It was a day of vindication for the well-traveled linebacker from USC, who had caught on with the Chargers as a free agent last spring after being cut by Tampa Bay, the Raiders and San Francisco. One of four brothers to play in the National Football League and one of two still around--Ross is a defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings--Keith has had a tough struggle since being drafted in the second round by Tampa Bay in 1984.

Brother Ross also had a big day Sunday, making tackles all over the field as the Vikings ripped the Chicago Bears.

Told of this, Keith said, “Every day he has is great. He should make all-pro. I’m glad for him, and now it’s time for me to shine a little bit.”

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Keys, a 6-foot 7-inch defensive end, was dubbed “Too Tall” by Buddy Ryan when he was with the Bears. He lived up to his nickname when Krieg threw a pass from the Charger 29 on the game’s first possession.

“Keith and I are roommates, and that was my gift to him,” Keys said. “We were buddies at Tampa Bay, too. Last night, we were saying it was about time we did something. When the guy threw the ball, I dived toward him and got both hands up. After I hit the ball, I landed head first. I was looking up from the prone position when Keith ran the ball in.”

Keys, another free-agent pickup--he was cut by Chicago and Tampa Bay--was making his first start as a Charger.

“People always thought of me as a pass rusher,” Keys said. “I can play against the run, too, and I think I proved that today.”

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Browner said he didn’t see Keys knock down the pass.

“Luckily, I heard the ball get hit, so I looked over that way,” Browner said. “I was coming off a block by the tight end, and I ran three or four steps to catch the ball.

“This was the first touchdown I’d scored since I was in high school (at Southwest Atlanta High). That was a 42-yard interception in my junior year.”

Of his second interception of the game, which gave him a career total of four, Browner said, “I dropped into the flat, and I don’t think Krieg saw me out there, because the ball came right to me.”

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Cornerback Gill Byrd also made two interceptions, the second snuffing out the Seahawks’ last chance with 1:18 remaining. In fact, the entire Charger defense performed exceptionally well.

“We went out there play after play with a lot of intensity,” Byrd said. “We weren’t error-free, but we minimized our mistakes.”


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