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Smith Keeps Promise, but Victory Is Costly

September 20, 2004|From Associated Press

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Lovie Smith didn't take long to fulfill his No. 1 goal of beating Green Bay.

But the man who helped him do it wasn't around afterward to celebrate.

Mike Brown, whose 95-yard fumble return for a touchdown sparked the Bears' 21-10 victory over the Packers on Sunday, was lost for what could be an extended period because of a right Achilles' tendon injury in the waning minutes.

When Smith was hired as the Bears' coach on Jan. 15, he declared his priority was knocking off the Packers, the two-time defending division champions.

"I've never been in a fight where some guy told me he was going to beat me up and he beat me up," Packer linebacker Nick Barnett said.

Not only did Smith declare the Packers his top prize, he said he knew just how to beat them. The last two times he'd faced Green Bay was as the St. Louis Rams' defensive coordinator, and the Packers committed 10 turnovers in those games.

Brett Favre threw two interceptions Sunday, but the crucial turnover was Ahman Green's fumble just before halftime.

On first down from the two just after the two-minute warning, linebacker Brian Urlacher stormed into the backfield and stripped Green of the ball. Brown scooped it up and rumbled 95 yards down the Bears' sideline to give Chicago a 14-3 halftime lead instead of a 10-7 deficit.

It was the second-longest fumble return in Bears history, surpassed only by team founder George Halas' 98-yard return in 1923. It was also the second-longest fumble return for a score given up by Green Bay.

The Packers weren't demoralized by the 14-point swing, Barnett insisted, but Green Bay never recovered in losing its second home opener in a row.

"I was just trying ... to get a fumble and return one for a touchdown too," Barnett said.

He nearly did after recovering David Terrell's fumble with four minutes remaining, but right tackle John Tait stopped the score with a lunging tackle at midfield.

"I just got tripped up," Barnett said. "If he would have missed me, it would have turned the whole game around, that's how close it was."

Green declined to comment after the Packers lost to their archrivals for only the third time in the last 21 meetings.

Brown was carted off the field with 3 minutes 54 seconds remaining, and on the next play, backup safety Bobby Gray picked off a high throw from Favre.

Smith, who looked distraught, said Brown was scheduled for more medical tests today.

"It's a tough break for Mike," Smith said. "Mike is our captain. He's a big part of what we'll do around here."

The Packers had 234 yards and three points in the first half.

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