American Football: Brown repeats miracle for Bears escapologists

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The Independent Online

Every once in a while, the sporting gods look down upon the travails of mere athletic mortals and dispense blessings in abundance on a lucky recipient. That is the only explanation for what has happened to Mike Brown of the Chicago Bears over the last couple of weeks.

A solid if unspectacular workman, Brown was a relative unknown until last weekend, when he intercepted an errant San Francisco pass, returning it for a touchdown to win the game for his team.

That should have been the modest Brown's single moment in the spotlight, but the higher powers seemingly had other ideas. The Bears had managed to send their contest against the Cleveland Browns into overtime on Sunday night, only for Brown to be anointed once more. The Cleveland quarterback, Tim Couch, threw a pass which was batted up in the air by a Bear defender, only to drop invitingly into the hands of Brown, who raced 16 yards untouched for the winning score, Chicago rallying from 21-7 down with less than 30 seconds left to prevail 27-21.

"I don't know what you'd call it," said a bemused Brown. "A higher power, destiny. Yeah, that's it, destiny, that's the word." The Cleveland coach, Butch Davis, also presumably believes in the vagaries of higher powers after seeing his side lose the game in absurd circumstances.

Chicago scored what seemed a consolation touchdown with 28 seconds left when the quarterback Shane Matthews threw a nine-yard pass to Marty Booker. The Bears then recovered the onside kick, only for Matthews to complete the miracle as time expired, dropping a 34-yard pass into the hands of James Allen to tie the game. With such forces on their side, Brown's interception was simply a matter of predestination.

Evidence of celestial tampering could be found elsewhere, too. The deities smiled upon Morten Andersen, the New York Giants kicker who was playing the 300th game of his career. The Giants trailed Dallas by 17 points but, helped by four interceptions from the Cowboys quarterback Clint Stoerner, they managed to send the game to overtime. The veteran Dane, in his first season with the Giants, converted a 42-yard field goal to complete the comeback.

If the gods smiled upon Andersen, they brought the full force of their wrath on to the boot of the wretched Kris Brown. The Pittsburgh Steelers kicker missed four field goals as his side were beaten 13-10 by the Baltimore Ravens. One was blocked but the other three were simply misplaced, including a routine 35-yard effort with eight seconds remaining.

Many kickers would be condemned to eternal damnation for such failings, but Brown is fortunate that his coach, Bill Cowher, is keeping the faith. "I have not lost any confidence in him," he said. "If anyone is strong-minded enough to come out of this, it's Kris Brown."

Brown is not alone in incurring the fury of unseen powers. The Carolina Panthers seem beyond salvation, falling to their seventh consecutive defeat, humbled 23-6 in Miami. Jacksonville slumped to their fifth defeat in a row, Tennessee prevailing 28-24 on Steve McNair's touchdown run with 44 seconds left.

But no one is enduring the torment of the damned quite like the winless Detroit Lions, who jumped to a 10-0 lead, only to subside tamely to a 21-13 reverse in San Francisco. The first-year club president Matt Millen, who won four Super Bowls with three different teams as a player, is presumably paying the price for a Faustian pact earlier in his career.