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Steelers Brown insists crucial field goal against former team was no big deal

Monday, December 09, 2002

By Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Kris Brown stayed as stoic as a Supreme Court justice as he fielded the same question again and again:

How did it feel to kick a field goal to help beat the Steelers?

Kris Brown races toward the sideline to celebrate his late field goal. (John Beale, Post-Gazette)

"I just took this week like I prepared for the previous 13 games," he told reporters after his Houston Texans' stunning 24-6 victory yesterday at Heinz Field. "You guys made it out to be a bigger week than it was. The only difference was that I know most of the guys on the other sideline pretty well, and a couple of them are good friends. I just wanted to come out and do what I could to help the team win. We were fortunate enough to get into position where we could kick a field goal to make it a two-score lead."

OK, Kris, but how did it feel to kick a field goal to help beat the Steelers?

"Anytime you can get into a game and change the outcome, you've got to savor the moment. So, for me, does it rank any higher than two or three other kicks I've had this year? No. To me ... if three points get us a win, I love those moments."

Be sure that he loved these three points a little extra.

The Texans were up, 14-6, late in the game, a lead they had protected since early in the third quarter. Their offense was historic in its ineffectiveness, and their defense was out of gas for having spent nearly the entire game on the field.

Antwaan Randle El had just muffed a punt return, and Houston pounced on it at the Steelers' 25. Three bland offensive plays later, the Texans were back at the 28.

Enter Brown.

The crowd of 58,511 had booed him from the pregame warmups through each of his point-after kicks. More than one fan brought a sign wishing him a "Merry Kris-miss." But they saved their worst for last, producing a thunderous jeer as he came on to try from 43 yards.

He said he tuned it out, just as he did when he was employed here.

"The crowd's entitled to their opinion. If they want to do the things they want to do, that's fine. I respect that. To be honest with you, I get out on the field and I'm so focused ... I don't really listen to what they're saying or care what they're saying. Even if it were dirty or rude or crude, I wouldn't be able to tell you because I wouldn't know."

He also was facing the open end of Heinz Field, the symbolic graveyard of his three-year career with the Steelers. But, as always, he offered no complaints about the conditions, especially because the wind was to his back and the field had been resodded two weeks ago.

"The field conditions actually were the best I've seen prior to the beginning of last season."

The hold was down, the kick was up, and it sailed through the uprights with distance to spare, giving Houston a 17-6 with 3:40 left.

Brown knew it right away. The moment the ball left his foot, he high-fived holder Chad Stanley, then high-stepped to the Texans' sideline with both fists pumping. Once there, he was so deep in congratulations that he needed someone to grab his arm and yank him back onto the field for the ensuing kickoff.

Dom Capers, the Texans' coach, acknowledged what Brown wouldn't.

"I think anytime a player comes back and plays in a city where he has played before, it always feels good," Capers said. "But that kind of kick will feel good no matter where you play."

Brown hasn't had many fuzzy feelings in Heinz Field, to say the least. He dipped from having an 84 percent success rate on field goals in two years at Three Rivers Stadium to 67.4 percent last season at the Steelers' new home. And because of that, he was the focal point of much of the local sporting public's wrath.

He was a restricted free agent in the off-season, and the Texans made an offer. The Steelers were prepared to match but changed their minds when Brown told Coach Bill Cowher he no longer wanted to play in Pittsburgh. That prompted Cowher to question his courage, making for a snarly exit.

Brown wanted no part of such topics yesterday.

"I tossed last year out a long time ago," he said. "You guys wanted to bring it up, talk about it. I told you, once I became a part of this football team on the 8th of September and once we kicked off against the Dallas Cowboys, last season was history. I haven't thought about last year or talked about last year. So, for you guys to think that kick is somehow going to make me feel as if I came in and justified myself ... no."

Brown's field goal yesterday made him 14 of 19 for the season, 73.7 percent, and he has delivered kicks to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants.

He was asked if he celebrated either of those kicks the way he did the one yesterday.

"I was just excited we were able to kick a field goal to make it a two-score lead. I probably showed the same emotion against Jacksonville and the Giants. For me, this wasn't ... it was a great win for our team. Was it any different than the other three wins we've had? No."

Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1938.

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