One highlight of last weekend’s Bears100 Celebration was hearing former safety Mike Brown relive one of the most remarkable feats in franchise history.
Brown remains the only NFL player to ever return interceptions for touchdowns in overtime in back-to-back games. Both TDs—which came on consecutive Sundays at Soldier Field midway through the 2001 season—capped amazing comeback wins..
“Those are two plays that are always brought up,” Brown said during a panel discussion at the Bears100 Celebration. “Those are the two plays I remember vividly. It was a special time. I was a young player. I was in my second year. It gave me more confidence.”
First, Brown lifted the Bears to a thrilling 37-31 victory over the 49ers by intercepting a Jeff Garcia pass that was juggled by receiver Terrell Owens and returning it 33 yards for a TD on the first play of overtime.
The Bears overcame a 28-9 third-quarter deficit by outscoring the 49ers 28-3 over the final 23 minutes. They tied the score 31-31 with :26 remaining in the fourth quarter on Shane Matthews’ 4-yard TD pass to David Terrell and Anthony Thomas’ two-point conversion run.
A week later, Brown gave the Bears a stunning 27-21 win over the Browns when he picked off a Tim Couch pass that was deflected by Bryan Robinson and returned it 16 yards for a TD.
The Bears trailed 21-7 late before Shane Matthews threw two touchdown passes in the final :28 of regulation—the second a 34-yard Hail Mary to running back James Allen with no time remaining.
Having fun: Participating in the same panel discussion with Brown, former Bears safeties Gary Fencik and Doug Plank fondly discussed being known as the “Hitmen” when they played together from 1976-82.
“We’d be down 10-7 knowing that our offense probably wasn’t going to score,” Fencik said. “It would be in the fourth quarter and we’d say, ‘It’s time to have fun,’ and time to have fun meant nailing people.”
“When I was very young my mother used to drop me a lot as a baby and I learned to like this feeling of hitting something very hard,” Plank said with a laugh. “When I first got here, Dick Butkus had just left. But he was still synonymous with the Chicago Bears. I wanted to be Dick Butkus playing free safety.”
Honoring Da Coach: During another panel discussion at the Bears100 Celebration, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky talked about arriving at an Oct. 28 game last season against the Jets dressed as Bears legend Mike Ditka.
Trubisky revealed that he borrowed the sunglasses from his mother.
“She was wearing those that week and I was like, ‘Those are the same exact ones that Mike Ditka used to wear. Can I use those this week?’” Trubisky said. “And she said, ‘Absolutely.’
“It was Halloween. I wanted to do something fun. It all came together and a lot of people got a kick out of it, and I had a lot of fun doing it. You’ve just got to make sure you win that day or the costume is for nothing.”
Trubisky made sure the Bears won, passing for 220 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-10 victory over the Jets.
A great spot: Appearing at the Bears100 Celebration, Devin Hester said he was pleased with being ranked as the 20th best player in Bears history by co-authors Don Pierson and Dan Pompei in the Bears Centennial Scrapbook.
“To be in the top 100 is an honor for me,” Hester said. “I’m satisfied with being ranked No. 20. I think it’s a great spot for me.”
During Hester’s career with the Bears, he became the NFL's all-time leader with 18 kick return touchdowns and 13 punt return TDs, was voted to three Pro Bowls, won 13 special teams player of the week awards and was named to the NFL's All-Decade team for the 2000s.
Asked about his expectations entering the NFL, Hester said: “I just pretty much wanted to do the same thing I did in college. It was said that the things I did in college as far as returns go, it was impossible to do in the NFL and I just wanted to come into the NFL and show everybody that I could not only do it in college but in the NFL as well.”