CHICAGO - Bryan Robinson remembers the thought that crossed his mind as the Chicago Bears defense dragged itself onto the field for overtime last night.
“I thought, man, if we pull this one out, man, we're destined to go places,'' Robinson said.
How lofty a place remains to be seen, but the Bears' magical ride continued with the most improbable of victories over Cleveland. Chicago scored two touchdowns in the final 28 seconds of regulation, then won 27-21 in overtime at Soldier Field.
Robinson, a former star at Toledo's Woodward High School, started the game-winning defensive play, deflecting a Tim Couch pass that was plucked out of the air and returned for a touchdown by Mike Brown 2:50 into overtime.
“It's weird because I didn't feel like I'd been getting much of a rush all day,” Robinson said. “Now, it's do or die. They score, they win. You do anything you can do. So I just put my hand up to see what would happen. I got hops, man. Check out the replay and see how high I got there.
“Usually, a deflection will go sideways. But this went straight up. I hit it and I saw it climbing and I figured it might give somebody a chance to grab it. Mike had time to get it. Imagine him doing that two weeks in a row.”
Last Sunday, against San Francisco, Brown ripped a ball away from Terrell Owens, who was juggling a reception, and went the distance for an OT win.
Robinson, a 6-4, 300-pound defensive end, called the tipped pass “the second-biggest deflection of my career.”
The first, he said, came at Green Bay in 1999 when he blocked a field goal attempt in the waning seconds to preserve a 14-13 victory that was one of the most emotional in Bears history in that it came shortly after the death of Chicago icon Walter Payton.
“It's been two years, almost to the day,” Robinson said. “A lot of people don't understand how the memory of Walter affects the veterans on this team. So this was deja vu, I guess.”
Robinson agreed that the Browns outplayed his team yesterday.
“Absolutely, and give them credit for it,” he said. “But sometimes you have to play 60 minutes and then some. You'd better win it or we'll take it from you. They outplayed us, truly, but we got the win.”
Robinson, 27, graduated from Woodward in 1993 after earning all-district honors as a senior. He then spent two years at a junior college in Palm Desert, Calif., before moving on to Fresno State University and garnering first team all-conference honors.
An undrafted free agent who originally signed with St. Louis, Robinson is in his fourth year with the Bears and has been the starter at left defensive end for 44 straight games.
BROWN RETURNS: Cleveland's defense, pretty solid all season, got only better with the return of end Courtney Brown yesterday. Playing for the first time in 2001 because of a sprained right knee, Brown was dominant at times and finished with three sacks while returning a fumble for a touchdown.
“I thought Courtney played extremely well,” coach Butch Davis said. “He was a real presence. He gave us a great pass rush.”
Brown played more than expected and said, “I'm tired. But after a game like this you should be. I feel good physically. Mentally? We just have to put this behind us. It hurts but we have to learn from this and move on.”
KEY LOSS: The Browns will have to move on without starting defensive end Keith McKenzie, who suffered a fractured left ankle late in the first quarter yesterday.
As McKenzie was receiving medical attention on the field and waiting to be carted off, the player kneeling over him offering consolation was Chicago punter Brad Maynard. McKenzie and Maynard were teammates at Ball State.