PHILADELPHIA -- After a month of relative bliss and improbable comebacks, the other shoe dropped on the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday.
With jackhammer force, it crushed a four-game winning streak ++ and snuffed out the City of Brotherly Love's brief infatuation with quarterback Bubby Brister.
Some things just aren't meant to last.
Shortly after Brister trotted onto the Veterans Stadium carpet to rousing cheers -- and well before a 17-6 loss to the Chicago Bears was complete -- the home crowd of 63,601 turned on Randall Cunningham's replacement with a vengeance.
The romance deteriorated so rapidly that by the third quarter, when Brister hurt his left wrist on a blindside sack, the crowd cheered. Heightening that poor taste, the fans then resumed booing as he made his way to the sideline.
"I've been through that before," Brister said. "I've heard it in Pittsburgh. It's part of the job. One day you're a hero, the next day a goat. I'll throw two touchdowns and win a game, and they'll be cheering again.
"I'm here to handle it. I have broad shoulders."
He will need "extra large" to carry an Eagles offense that put its big-play pass combination -- Cunningham to Fred Barnett -- in the hospital last week with leg injuries.
That was when Brister replaced Cunningham, rescued the Eagles from a 21-0 deficit and rallied to a 35-30 victory over the New York Jets. That was last week, though.
Rich Kotite heard the hostility that accompanied the Eagles' first loss and felt, well, at home.
"I'm used to that," the Eagles coach said. "It's OK. We're back on earth. The honeymoon's over. But we're 4-1. . . . That didn't surprise me.
"He [Brister] is tough as nails and doesn't make excuses. That's why he's going to come back and play well for us. To blame it on one person is not fair."
Kotite said he never considered going to Ken O'Brien, signed this week in the wake of Cunningham's broken leg. And Brister's teammates rallied around their embattled quarterback, a former Pittsburgh Steeler who came to Philadelphia via free agency this year.
"He's mentally and physically tough," said center David Alexander. "He didn't say anything and it didn't show in the huddle. But I'm sure it didn't make him feel great."
Said guard Mike Schad: "It's not just Bubby, but all of us, the whole offense."
Brister was an easily identifiable target, though. His four turnovers were figuratively the smoking gun in the defeat. Two of them came in the first quarter and resulted in 10 quick Chicago points.
On the Eagles' first offensive series, he tried to float a flare pass to Herschel Walker at the line of scrimmage, but defensive end Richard Dent, anticipating the play, intercepted the ball. Six plays later, Kevin Butler kicked a 37-yard field goal for the Bears.
On Philadelphia's next possession, Brister was chased out of the pocket -- a daylong theme -- and had the ball raked from his grip by defensive end Trace Armstrong. It was recovered by linebacker Dante Jones at the Eagles' 27.
Quarterback Jim Harbaugh made it a 10-0 lead with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Curtis Conway on third-and-15.
Brister would get intercepted by another defensive lineman (Steve McMichael) and lose another fumble in the second half, but the damage had already been done.
Chicago mounted a 66-yard scoring drive without Brister's assistance in the second quarter. The Bears' defense, meanwhile, menaced him all afternoon.
Five games into the post-Mike Ditka era, the Bears (3-2) have demonstrated they will win with defense under new coach Dave Wannstedt. They have given up just six touchdowns in five games, including a 7-yard touchdown pass from Brister to Baltimore's Calvin Williams in the last 23 seconds yesterday.
"We've made some headway," Wannstedt said. "I never thought I would be a little bit disappointed about a win, but we wanted to get a shutout."
The Bears sacked Brister seven times with a basic four-man rush. They chased him out of the pocket on five ad-lib runs as well. On a third-and-eight in the Eagles' first series of the second half, he ran out of bounds 2 yards short of the line of scrimmage -- drawing thunderous boos from the crowd.
For the day, Brister was 18-for-33 for 209 yards but averaged a paltry 6.3 yards per pass play. With Barnett lost for the season to a knee injury, Williams is the Eagles' only proven wide receiver. But Brister didn't find him until the fourth quarter.
As it was, the Eagles crossed midfield only twice through three quarters and never seriously challenged the Bears.
"Today was just a bad day," Brister said. "I wish I had it back. I wish it didn't happen. But it did. I didn't play particularly well. . . . I accept that responsibility, and I'm going to work through this."
NOTES: The loss ended the Eagles' 11-game home winning streak. . . . Cunningham was not at the game but was in Los Angeles recuperating from surgery Thursday. He will be there for a month, an Eagles spokesman said.