Turning Point: First Strike Capability

For the first time since Week 2, the Bears scored on their opening possession of the game. With Rex Grossman behind center, the offense looked like a unit that could score when it needed to.

The Bears took the lead 10 minutes into the game and never trailed. With Grossman under center, the passing game took a major step forward. Although he finished 11-of-23 for 166 yards with one touchdown and one interception, he changed the complexion of the offense.

In his first start in 27 regular season games, Grossman completed three passes of 20 yards or more. There were other opportunities for big plays, but Muhsin Muhammad had one of his worst games as a Bear.

Things got started on the opening drive of the game, when Grossman completed 5-of-6 passes for 65 yards. He floated a perfect pass to Bernard Berrian for 21 yards to convert a 3rd and 8. After another passing first down to Justin Gage, Grossman went to Muhammad for 20 yards on a deep slant.

It appeared the Bears would have to settle for a field goal when RB Thomas Jones was stuffed for a 6-yard loss on a second down carry. With 3rd down and goal from the 12, Grossman had time in the pocket to wait for Muhammad to separate from the Green Bay secondary and hit him for a touchdown.

The Bears took a 7-0 lead and put the pressure on Green Bay to play from behind. Even though the Packers later tied the game and kept it close throughout, the Bears were able to remain aggressive because they never trailed.

Late in the game, coach Lovie Smith went for it on 4th and 1 when he could have sent Robbie Gould out for a 46-yard field goal attempt. Instead of handing the ball off to Jones, Grossman threw a perfect pass to Muhammad to beat the coverage in the end zone, but the receiver failed to come up with the ball.

The 24-17 victory means the Bears have clinched the NFC North title and the second seed in the conference. The win gives Chicago a first round bye, which will give injured players three weeks to heal for the divisional round.

Just as important as the postseason positioning is the performance by Grossman. Each ball that flew in the air put the opposition on notice. The trip to Minnesota is meaningless, so the game plan will be vanilla. However, there is now film of the passing game making plays downfield. That will open up the line of scrimmage for the running game and allow it to flourish.

It's no coincidence that Jones went over the century mark in rushing for the first time since the sixth game of the season. He's had a great season despite consistently facing eight and nine men fronts. If a defense wants to stack the line of scrimmage, Grossman has proved he can take advantage of one-on-one coverage.

While the defense didn't have it's best performance against Green Bay, if the offense can continue to put up 17 points a game it will be difficult for any team to knock the Bears out of the playoffs.


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