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updated: 12/26/2010 9:08 PM

Deal-sealer does it again

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  • The Bears' Chris Harris celebrates after recovering a fumble in the first half Sunday at Soldier Field. Harris added a game-clinching interception late in the fourth quarter and has 5 picks in the last eight games.

      The Bears' Chris Harris celebrates after recovering a fumble in the first half Sunday at Soldier Field. Harris added a game-clinching interception late in the fourth quarter and has 5 picks in the last eight games.
    Associated Press

  • Brian Hill/bhill@dailyherald.comChicago Bears safety Chris Harris (46) pulls in an interception to change the direction of the game during the Chicago Bears and New York Jets game at Soldier Field in Chicago Sunday, December 26, 2010.

      Brian Hill/bhill@dailyherald.comChicago Bears safety Chris Harris (46) pulls in an interception to change the direction of the game during the Chicago Bears and New York Jets game at Soldier Field in Chicago Sunday, December 26, 2010.

  • Brian Hill/bhill@dailyherald.comChicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith hugs Chicago Bears safety Chris Harris (46) after he pulled in an interception to change the direction of the game during the Chicago Bears and New York Jets game at Soldier Field in Chicago Sunday, December 26, 2010.

      Brian Hill/bhill@dailyherald.comChicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith hugs Chicago Bears safety Chris Harris (46) after he pulled in an interception to change the direction of the game during the Chicago Bears and New York Jets game at Soldier Field in Chicago Sunday, December 26, 2010.

 

Remember the disastrous final play of the first half in the New England game two weeks ago?

You know, when Tom Brady pump-faked a throw over the middle and then threaded a spiral down the Bears sideline to Deion Branch for a touchdown?

Chris Harris remembered.

Better than that, the Bears safety learned from that 59-yard score -- even though he hadn't been on the field.

Harris' game-clinching interception in Sunday's 38-34 victory over the New York Jets came on virtually the exact route.

"It's a play that's kind of been a nemesis for us all season," Harris said. "Them trying to hit that side pocket down the sideline.

Instead of buying Mark Sanchez's pump-fake down the middle -- as rookie Major Wright did two weeks ago against Brady -- Harris didn't flinch.

That gave him just enough time to race over toward the Bears sideline and pick off Sanchez' pass before it reached Santonio Holmes.

If Harris arrives late or doesn't get there at all as the safety on that half of the field, the Jets get a 67-yard go-ahead touchdown with roughly 45 seconds left.

Instead, the Bears moved 1 win away from a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs.

"I kind of had a feeling it was coming," Harris said. "I wasn't for sure, but I kind of had a feeling when I saw the release of Santonio Holmes."

Just as Tillman allowed Branch to release and then settled underneath in the Cover-2, Tim Jennings allowed Holmes to sprint beyond him down the left sideline.

"I said, 'All right, this might be the play here,'" Harris said. "(Sanchez) was staring down the middle, there was two vertical (receivers). Pump-faked it to the middle. I didn't bite on it."

Instead, Harris maintained his recent incredible knack for picking off late passes.

The sixth-year pro, who returned to the Bears in the off-season after a three-year sabbatical with the Carolina Panthers, owns a career-high 5 interceptions in the last eight games.

Four of Harris' picks have come in the fourth quarter, and 3 have served as the final offensive play for the Bears' victim that day.

"(Defensive coordinator) Rod Marinelli said he wanted everybody to have career years this year," Harris said. "This is definitely a career year for me."

Harris intercepted Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick with 27 seconds remaining to preserve that 22-19 win on Nov. 7 in Toronto.

He snagged a Brett Favre pass with 2:27 left to wrap up the Bears' 27-13 win Nov. 14 at Soldier Field.

And, of course, Jay Cutler took two knees after Harris' clinching play Sunday.

Harris didn't disagree when asked whether it was his biggest play as a Bear since picking off Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl.

"It had the echoes of some of my top plays as a Chicago Bear," Harris said.

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