In 158 previous NFL games in 12 years with six teams, no one asked him to stand in front of the media and talk about the game he just played. The honor is usually reserved for quarterbacks, running backs and superstars. Not journeyman linebackers.
Bowens broke through Sunday afternoon in the bowels of the Louisiana Superdome. Anyone with a notebook or microphone wanted to talk to him after the best day of his career.
More photos below.
“It feels good,” he said as he took the podium. “Yes!” Bowens returned two Drew Brees interceptions for touchdowns — 30 and 64 yards — as the Browns shocked the Saints 30-17. He nearly outscored New Orleans by himself. “You don’t dream of games like that,” Bowens said. “You don’t ever think anything’s going to happen like that. It’s unbelievable.”
Bowens started 15 games for the Browns in 2009, but has been a backup this season. He was slowed by a sore knee in the preseason, thought he might get cut, then was inactive for the opener, snapping a streak of 100 straight games.
He played extensively Sunday, by far the most this year. Somebody knew something. “I was thankful for the opportunity to be in the game plan and able to make a lot of plays,” said Bowens, who played in nickel and dime situations and took some snaps in the base defense at inside linebacker.
“The confidence my coaches have in me, it speaks a lot for them.
“It’s just been a long road. After I was inactive for the first game, I just said I was going to give them a reason to put me on the field.”
Bowens is 33 years old and has a lot of gray in his hair and beard. He takes plenty of ribbing from his teammates.
“Oldest guy in the league,” linebacker Scott Fujita joked. “I don’t know if he had stick-em on his hands or what.”
“They say I got snow on the roof, but there’s fire in the chimney that’s still going,” Bowens said. “I’ve been hearing this for the last three years, so it’s nothing new to me. It just shows the love they have for me and the respect they have for me.”
“He’s such an easy guy to cheer for,” said coach Eric Mangini, who brought Bowens with him from New York.
Bowens is the first Brown with two interception returns for touchdowns since Bob Franklin in 1960 against the Bears. The first was a 30-yarder for a 20-3 lead with 1:49 left before halftime. The second was 64 yards to end the suspense and take a 30-10 lead with 3:33 left.
In an interesting coincidence, Brees’ second son was born last week and he picked the name Bowen Christopher.
“All week we’ve been watching these little crossing routes, these little guys coming across the middle, and I just said if I’m not going to get there to rush, I’m going to try to read one of these crossing routes,” Bowens said. “And I think that’s what happened.”
On the first score, the pass bounced off Bowens, into the backside of Saints guard Jahri Evans and back toward Bowens. He reached down to grab it and rambled down the left side.
He reached high to grab the second one and had nothing in front of him but green turf. He was joined by linebacker Jason Trusnik and cornerback Eric Wright and took his time. When he got to the goal line, he did an uncomfortable- looking somersault into the end zone.
“It’s like tunnel vision,” he said of the returns. “Everything just slows down. It’s priceless.
“I had 60 yards to decide what I was going to do. I can’t dance. All I can think about is watching New Orleans highlights with Reggie Bush flipping over into the end zone. I said I’m going to do it, but I can’t do it as sweet as he does because I’m a little heavier than he is, a little older.”
Bowens played tight end and running back in high school but said he never scored twice in a game. His only previous NFL touchdown came on a blocked punt that he remembered like it was yesterday — 26 yards in New England.
Will Sunday’s game be the highlight of his career?
“I don’t know yet,” he said. “It’s not over. It’s still going.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.