Grossman's Time to Shine

The Bears are not a passing team and if they plan on advancing to the NFC Title game will not become one against the Carolina Panthers. However, there is no doubt the offense became more balanced the moment QB Rex Grossman stepped into the huddle against the Falcons.

With just 7 starts in three seasons in the league, Grossman will play in his biggest game of professional career today against the Panthers. He's done everything to prepare for the divisional matchup, including putting his meetings with offensive coordinator Ron Turner and quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson on his IPOD so he could listen to them whenever need be.

"You'd like to think you prepare yourself to be in an intense situation and just kind of focus and think about your responsibilities and get into the zone out there playing instead of just freaking out and running crazy and throwing ball all over the place," Grossman said.

Carolina QB Jake Delhomme may have thrown two interceptions and was sacked 8 times in the first meeting, but he's a proven commodity in the playoffs. The Pro Bowl quarterback has a 106.1 passer rating and is 4-1 in the postseason.

First time starters didn't fair well in the wildcard round, going 0-4, but Caron Palmer threw just one pass before leaving the game with a knee injury. Considering Grossman played just six quarters in the regular season, he has something to prove.

"Everyone has their own opinion on me, and how I'm gonna play, or how good you think I am," Grossman said. "I'm a pretty confident player. I feel like I can go out and have a good game, so that's all that matters, and that I have the respect of my teammates and things like that."

In the face of tremendous pressure, Grossman has remained calm and that type of leadership has impressed everyone, even 10-year veteran WR Muhsin Muhammad.

"I seriously don't think Rex has anything to lose in this game," Muhammad said. "He's probably one of the most poised guys that I've seen play. When we played against Green Bay, he made some throws that I've played with 10- 15-year vets that make those kind of throws."

It's not that the Bears offense has changed that much since Grossman replaced Kyle Orton in the second half against Atlanta in Week 15, the fact is he's taking more chances and making more plays.

"I'm smart enough to know that he has an arm to make throws that Kyle Orton couldn't make and the coaches feel more comfortable with him back there so they're going to open up the offense a little bit more," said Carolina DT Brentson Bucker.

With more playmaking ability comes a risk reward factor in Grossman's decision-making process. Not turning the ball over is always critical, but especially in the postseason.

"If we do what we've done to get here, play great defense, run the football and protect the ball, that will take a lot of pressure off of Rex and it will allow him to just go out and play his game," Turner said. "And if we do that then we'll have a great chance of winning. If we don't do that regardless of what Rex does, then we'll struggle."

The most important job Grossman will have aside from ball security is moving the chains. The Bears converted just 28.8 percent of their third down opportunities during the regular season, which ranked 31st in the league. With Grossman running the offense, the conversion rate jumped to 38.1 percent.

In the Panthers 23-0 shutout of the Giants, Carolina held the ball for more than 42 minutes. Conversely New York ran just 35 offensive plays and never got into a rhythm.

"I think Eli Manning could have played a lot better had he calmed down with some plays down the field and gotten into some long drives and got some points on the board," Grossman said. "That's something as a quarterback you're always striving to get the first points on the board to calm down. That never happened for them."

If the Bears can take an early lead, the pressure will shift to the Panthers. Carolina didn't handle the load well in the first matchup and a repeat performance would send the Bears to their first NFC Title game since 1988.


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