First Timers Fail to Impress

All four teams that had a quarterback making his first start in the playoffs lost over the weekend. Rex Grossman will get his chance to break the streak against the Carolina Panthers, who shutout the New York Giants.

Carolina took away RB Tiki Barber, who managed just 41 yards on 13 carries, and forced Eli Manning to make plays. The second year signal caller proved to be mistake prone, turning the ball over four times, including three interceptions.

The blueprint against the Bears will be similar. Limit the running game, which will put the offense in obvious passing situations on second and third down.

Grossman never trailed during his six quarters of action since returning from a broken ankle. If the Bears were to fall behind the Panthers will be able to worry less about Thomas Jones and more about getting after Grossman.

In the first meeting, Chicago's offensive line kept Kyle Orton from being sacked. The defensive end tandem of Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker combined for 18.0 sacks in the regular season and will look to avenge being blanked at the hands of Fred Miller and John Tait.

The four first time starters combined for six interceptions and no touchdowns. Heading into the postseason first time starters were 31-31 since 1990.

The Bears will need to impose their will and not abandon the running game. Chicago is 11-2 in games where they have at least 29 rushing attempts. It took Jones 25 carries to get 87 yards in the first meeting.

While the Bears have more potential to put up points with Grossman at the helm, the defense will need to keep Carolina's potentially high powered attack in check for a second time.

The Carolina game proved to be a coming out party for the unit. The front four produced eight sacks of Jake Delhomme.

CB Nathan Vasher had two first-quarter interceptions and 68 yards in returns against the Panthers on Nov. 20. His two picks led to 10 Bears points, and he also forced a fumble.

With all the talk about Peppers and Rucker heading into the game, Adewale Ogunleye had three sacks against the Panthers and his counterpart Alex Brown had two.

While WR Steve Smith caught 14 balls for 169 yards, but kept him out of the end zone. The Panthers were held to just a field goal in the 13-3 win on Nov. 20. He scored two touchdowns - one on a run and another on a pass reception – vs. New York.

The running game has more big play capability with Deshaun Foster taking the bulk of the carries. He's averaged 97 yards over the final five regular season games and ran for 151 yards against the Giants.

The Bears have up just 61 points in 8 home games this season, but doing it in the postseason is what will make the defense special.


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