Rex Grossman's professional debut had a grand finale."> Rex Grossman's professional debut had a grand finale.">

Mixed reviews

It wasn't exactly "A Star is Born," but <!--Default NodeId For Rex Grossman is 738189,2003--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:738189]>Rex Grossman</A>'s professional debut had a grand finale.

Grossman completed just 9 of 21 passes, but he was 5-for-10 on his final possession, directing a game-winning 50-yard drive that ended with Paul Edinger's 38-yard field goal.

Offensive coordinator John Shoop was reserved in his assessment of the rookie quarterback's NFL debut, but he didn't downplay the significance of the game-winning drive, even though it was an exhibition game.

"It is the preseason, but it's a game," Shoop said. "We say in practice, 'If it's a drill, we try to win the drill.' If it's a game, we're trying to win the game. It may not count on our record starting Sept. 7, but it counts tonight."

Thirty-nine of Grossman's 74 passing yards came on the final drive.

"Rex started off a little bit slow, and he had some throws that he'd like to have back," Shoop said. "He had a lot of reads that he's like to have back, but he competed when the game was on the line. I told him before he went out for the last drive, 'You've got a chance to win it or lose it, why don't you win this sucker?' He found a way to do it. That was encouraging."

Twice in the final 90 seconds, he converted two fourth-and-long plays to keep the drive alive, both times collaborating with fellow rookies. On fourth-and-7, Grossman found Justin Gage on the sideline for 13 yards. After 3 incompletions the first-round pick came back with a 12-yard pass to Bobby Wade on fourth-and-10.

Wade dropped a well-thrown pass on the play before his big reception and was thankful for a shot at redemption.

"That really hurts," Wade said of his drop. "I was begging Rex to come right back to me. Rex did me a favor, and I did him a favor, so hopefully we'll keep that going. You can't be selfish and put all the pressure on yourself, because you might get an opportunity to make a play right after that, which I was able to do to keep the drive alive and (help) win the game."

Grossman doesn't have much of a reputation for mobility, but on the completion to Wade, he improvised while fleeing the pocket after his protection broke down and while still on the run found Wade.

"That was a complete scramble," Wade said. "Rex got flushed out of the pocket. The (original) play was dead and everybody was working to the right side of the field. I chose to work against the grain, Rex was able to see me, make a great throw falling back, and I was able to catch it and surge forward to get the first down and keep the drive alive."

Despite his late heroics, Grossman downplayed talk of an acceleration in his apprenticeship, which is expected to keep him stuck on the bench this season behind Kordell Stewart and Chris Chandler.

"I've got a long way to go, but tonight was a good first step," Grossman said. "I have a lot of bad plays to work on. I'm just glad it ended well and I came back and played well on that last drive. We started to make plays on that last drive so that helped."

The rookie quarterback said he learned some valuable lessons while struggling through his first six possessions, which produced just 17 plays and 39 total yards. Grossman was sacked twice, and a botched handoff to Maurice Hicks gave the Colts the ball at the Bears' 28-yard line.

" I need to just relax a little bit and play the way I know how to play," Grossman said. "I wasn't really excited about a lot of my reads, but I feel like I got some good experience out there, and hopefully I'm a lot sharper next week with my reads and going to the man I'm supposed to go to. But a lot of those guys I was playing with were out there for the first time, too and they'll be a lot better.

"Everybody moves a little bit faster than they do in practice, and (with) a little bit of nerves and everything else, it was a little bit blurry, but I'll be able to get used to it."

Fortunately for Grossman, the picture came into focus at the most important time.

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