Sunday, November 28, 2010
Here's a tip: Harris called it
By Michael C. Wright
CHICAGO -- Chris Harris stared at Philadelphia’s offense as it lined up at the Chicago 4-yard line at the two-minute warning.
With his Bears leading 14-13, Harris winced at the thought of Philadelphia swinging the momentum with a touchdown just before intermission.
So Harris starting mumbling to himself -- almost wishing -- while standing in the end zone, his mind racing to diagnose what play might come from the offensive formation.
“Funny thing -- you're not gonna believe it when I tell you,” Harris explained, “I was talking to myself before that play. I said, ‘Chris, you’re about to get a tip.’ It happened. I can’t explain it.”
Chris Harris intercepted Michael Vick off a tipped pass by Tommie Harris, erasing an Eagles threat and swinging the momentum back to the Bears in the second quarter.
No need, considering what occurred next. Looking to throw a quick slant to running back LeSean McCoy, who was being covered by Tim Jennings, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick fired a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage by defensive tackle Tommie Harris. Chris Harris gobbled up the tip for an interception 2 yards deep in the end zone, and returned it 39 yards to the Chicago 37.
The sequence could be identified as the play that turned the game for the Bears, who went on to dominate the Eagles 31-26 with Harris serving as the defensive catalyst.
Six plays after the Chris Harris interception, Chicago scored on a 6-yard pass from Jay Cutler pass to Earl Bennett, which snuffed out Philadelphia’s momentum and allowed the Bears to go into the half leading 21-13.
“I’m serious, I was talking to myself,” Harris said. “I said, ‘Chris, this ball is about to get tipped, and you’re gonna get one.’ It doesn’t always happen that way, but it happened that time.”
Bears strong safety Danieal Manning, standing at an adjacent locker still in uniform after the win, called his teammate’s play the one “that changed the game.” The club was lined up in Cover 1 with Harris serving as sort of the center fielder of the secondary. The safety said he was reading Vick’s eyes and cheating to the side on which he picked off the pass.
With strong pressure coming from the front four, Tommie Harris had the presence of mind to get his hands up to tip Vick’s pass to McCoy.
“It was big, man. They were driving. We had more points than they did, but they were driving, gaining momentum,” Manning said. “If they would’ve scored, that would’ve put them up. Tommie [Harris], great rush, great getting his hands on the ball. Then Chris being Johnny on-the-spot… I think the only bad thing about that play was Chris didn’t have any speed [to get more yards out of the return on of the interception]. If Chris had some speed, he could’ve scored (laughing).”
Manning made that last crack within earshot of Harris as the two dressed after the game. Harris responded with strong disagreement, saying, “You saw me running,” causing both to erupt in laughter as reporters gathered near their lockers. Tommie Harris even walked over to Manning’s locker to crack jokes about the safety being in amazement of competing against Vick.
But all jokes aside, Chris Harris has been a strong, veteran addition to Chicago’s defense. Since rejoining the team, Harris has posted three interceptions through the first 11 games, which surpasses the one INT produced by all of the team’s safeties combined last season. Harris’ last interception came against Minnesota on Nov. 14 during the Vikings’ second-to-last possession.
“That interception was just deflating to us as a team,” Vick said. “When you have the opportunity to go up -- whether it’s by six points or two if we get a field goal -- then you’re up, and the momentum swings back your way. When you have the interception, it just changes the momentum of the game.”
It was the type of play the Bears have shown a tendency to make defensively, leading to whispers comparing the 2010 to the club’s Super Bowl unit of 2006. Harris smiled at the comparison, but quickly diverted the conversation. Harris finished the game with two tackles and two pass breakups to go with his game-changing interception.
“Big, big play there,” defensive end Julius Peppers said, “turning point of the game in my opinion. They were threatening to score right there. Chris was at the right place in the right time, caught it. It turned the momentum at that point.”