Grossman Remains Calm in First Playoff Start

CHICAGO - Rex Grossman found a rhythm, but it was too late to change the tune being played on the Bears by the Carolina Panthers.

The Bears lost 29-21 to the Panthers despite 192 yards passing by Grossman.

"It took us a while to get into a rhythm offensively, but I thought we did a nice job of finding that rhythm and playing decent from there," Grossman said.

The Bears found Grossman's demeanor in the huddle more like that of a veteran than a quarterback in his first playoff game. He brought them back within 13-7, 16-14 and 23-21 after they fell behind 13-0.

"Rex is a warrior," tight end Desmond Clark said. "I had no doubt Rex was going to go out and play well. He proved he's a good quarterback and can play on this level in this type of game."

Grossman threw only 39 passes in the regular season, but Sunday he threw more passes than he had all year with 41 attempts and 17 completions against a blitzing, aggressive Panthers defense that attempted to take advantage of his inexperience.

"I thought Rex stood in there and threw the ball well," coach Lovie Smith said.

The Bears' offensive game plan was to pass first to chase Carolina off the line of scrimmage and open up the running game. They ran for only 97 yards on 27 carries after gaining 122 in the first game, but the passing game worked until wide receiver Bernard Berrian suffered a hip-pointer which forced him to the sidelines after making five catches for 68 yards.

Grossman connected on five straight passes, including a 24-yarder to Muhsin Muhammad, on the Bears' last series of the first half as they pulled back within 13-7 before halftime. He threw for 62 of the 67 yards on that drive.

In the third quarter, Grossman completed a 17-yarder to set up a 1-yard TD pass to Clark. In the fourth quarter, his 18-yard completion to Muhammad at the Panthers' 9 put the Bears in position for Jason McKie's 3-yard TD run.

"I thought Rex stood in there and threw the ball well."

Grossman's game ended with a whimper -- a fourth-quarter Ken Lucas interception and then a fourth-and-one incompletion to Muhsin Muhammad as he fell to the turf on a slant pass.

It didn't diminish what Grossman or the Bears feel can be accomplished next year, provided he can stay healthy.

"No question, we're going to be a lot better than where we are," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "I think we showed them some flashes of what we can do but Rex is going to be a great player.

"I'm excited with where we're going with this offense. There's some great days ahead. There's no doubt in my mind."

Grossman had a passer rating of 54.1 for the game, a figure worsened by his interception in the fourth quarter.

Grossman made the ultimate comeback in 2005 from a broken ankle and never could have expected to be starting a playoff game.

"Crazy. It's been a crazy year," Grossman said of his season. "Nothing that I expected would have happened happened.

"I hope for a more consistent year next year and I'm going to do everything I can physically and mentally to come back and be the best quarterback in the league. This year is over. It's disappointing because we had such a great opportunity. But with everything that's happened to me it's been wild. I'm extremely disappointed right now. All I can say is I'm going to be ready to go next year."

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