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Brown, Fortunato give take on big game

NATCHEZ — Joe Fortunato and Allen Brown both have an opinion on which team has the advantage in today’s NFC Championship matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.

To no surprise, each former NFL player favored the team for which they played.

“I think (the Packers) have them beat as far as quarterbacks,” said Brown, who played tight end for the Packers from 1966-67. “(Jay) Cutler’s a smart quarterback that can throw well, but I don’t think the Bears have the receiving corps the Packers have.

“It’s going to be a thriller. I don’t think it’ll be a runaway unless a quarterback gets hurt.”

And Fortunato made no bones about his pick to win the game.

“Them Chicago Bears are going to win,” said Fortunato, who played linebacker for the Bears from 1955-66.

“The Packers-Bears is always a really close game. When we played, it always was close. It wasn’t high scoring. One thing we always had the advantage in was defense. I called the defense signals on the field — I was kind of an assistant linebackers coach.”

But despite the strong history of linebackers the Bears have, Brown said he thinks things are different this season.

“I think the Packers have the better linebacker corps this year, which is surprising, because the Bears are know for their strong linebackers,” Brown said.

“He’s not very flashy, but he gets the job done,” Brown said. “He doesn’t throw many interceptions or incompletions.”

Fortunato, however, didn’t seem too concerned with the alleged advantage the Packers have at quarterback.

“He’s probably right to a certain extent, but when we played, we put a lot of pressure (on the quarterback’s) butt to even it out,” Fortunato said.

“I think they’ll try to do the same (today). The Bears are known for their pressure defense. That’s what they try to do.”

Brown and Fortunato didn’t face each other often, since Brown’s short career began around the time Fortunato’s ended. But Brown recalled one particular incident when he lined up opposed to Fortunato.

“He was a (heck) of a linebacker for the Bears, the best I’ve ever seen on the outside,” Brown said.

“My first year of training camp, we played each other in a preseason game. When I lined up against him, he tapped me on the helmet and said, ‘You’re a long way from Natchez, Miss.’ He didn’t take any pity on me because we were friends. He hit me hard several times.”

Fortunato said it was good having someone else from Natchez make it into the NFL.

“We had a good camaraderie,” Fortunato said. “A lot of times we’d go out together after the games and would have a drink or something like that.

“We got along, but when we played on the field, we played tough. I’m proud we both got to play, him for his team and me for my team.”

But this season, Brown and Fortunato will both enjoy watching one of the best rivalries in football.

“The Bears and Green Bay has always been one of the top rivalries in the league,” Fortunato said. “We beat them as much as they beat us. It’s pretty even.”

The game is at 2 p.m. on Fox.

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