Bears rally from 15 down in fourth to beat 49ers in OT
Updated: Monday October 29, 2001 4:22 AM
After a victory like this, a little extra celebration was in order.
Brown's 33-yard interception return in overtime capped a wild game Sunday and gave Chicago a 37-31 win against the San Francisco 49ers in the shortest extra period in NFL history.
"This," Brown said, "is unbelievable."
Yes, it was. Trailing 28-9, the Bears rallied behind rookie David Terrell's two touchdown catches in the fourth quarter and Michigan teammate Anthony Thomas' run for a 2-point conversion to tie the game. Then, on the first play of overtime, Brown picked off a pass intended for Terrell Owens and returned it for the game-winning score.
That would be the same Terrell Owens who burned the Bears for an NFL-record 20 catches in a game last year.
"I was just trying to make the play, I don't know what happened," Owens said. "I was open, I was trying to make the play."
Instead, it bounced off his shoulder pads and into Brown's hands to give the Bears (5-1) their fifth consecutive win -- their longest winning streak since 1991. Overtime lasted only 16 seconds, eclipsing the previous record by one second.
"I can't tell you how good it feels," head coach Dick Jauron said. "I thought San Francisco did a lot of good things. I know they're good, but to come away with that -- that was fantastic."
The Bears' stunning victory spoiled a big day for Garrison Hearst, who scored his first touchdown since December 1998. Hearst, who missed the last two seasons with a severe ankle injury, caught four passes for 105 yards and rushed for 46 yards.
Jeff Garcia was 21-for-29, but it was his last throw to Owens that cost the 49ers (4-2) the game.
"It was major disappointment, but it is something that we'll just have to get over," Garcia said. "We had an excellent opportunity to be 5-1, and that's what's so disheartening, allowing the game to slip out of our hands like that."
Off to their best start in 11 years, the Bears looked out of synch early. Instead of the Chicago defense making the plays, it was the young 49ers who came up big.
Somehow, the Bears made an amazing comeback. Though he hadn't played since injuring his ribs Sept. 23, Matthews coolly led the Bears to three scores in the last 20 minutes.
"Your job as a No. 2 is to be ready, and be ready in an instant," Matthews said.
Thomas, who set a team rookie record with 188 yards last week, got the rally started. His 12-yard rush set up Terrell's 13-yard TD catch that cut San Francisco's lead to 31-23 with 4:08 left.
Chicago's defense shut down the 49ers, forcing them to go three-and-out and giving the Bears the ball back with a little more than two minutes left. And Matthews led Chicago on another scoring drive.
Using five receivers, he completed eight passes in a row and brought the Bears to the San Francisco 4 before spiking the ball with 26 seconds left to stop the clock.
He then found Terrell, and the rookie made a beautiful scoring grab, managing to keep inbounds before falling over. Officials reviewed the play because there were less than two minutes to go, but replays showed Terrell had both feet inbounds.
"I knew I was in," Terrell said.
Thomas then scooted through a pile for the conversion. That call was reviewed, too, to make sure Thomas' knee wasn't down before he crossed the goal line. But after reviewing it, officials said Thomas' knee touched as he crossed, so the conversion counted.
"I'm really anxious to see the replays of all those calls because they were so close," 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci said. "You have coaches up in the box looking at that, and sometimes the coaches up there see it a little differently than the officials when they look through that little gizmo on the sideline. We really felt upstairs that someone really touched it down."
The 49ers chose to run out the clock, and they got the ball first in overtime. Garcia looked for Owens to start the drive, but the ball wound up in Brown's hands.
"Every Sunday, we go in thinking we're going to win, expecting to win," Brown said. "That's the difference between this year and last year."
Notes: Chicago has returned a takeaway for a score in three of its last four games. ... San Francisco, which came into the game ranked No. 2 in the NFL in rushing, was limited to 83 yards on the ground. ... The 49ers lost 78 yards in penalties. ... Chicago hadn't beaten the 49ers since 1988.