Quarterback Rex Grossman started the 2006 season hot as a firecracker. With the Bears sporting a perfect 7-0 record and being acknowledged as the team to beat in the NFC - and maybe the best in the entire NFL - the fourth-year signal-caller was in the conversation for league MVP. Through seven games, Grossman had posted a passer rating of 98.6 or higher fives times and was on pace to throw 30 touchdown passes.
All of a sudden, the former Gator has been nothing short of awful two of the last three games against a pair of teams that are certain to be out of the playoff picture. The Bears needed a miracle finish to defeat Arizona in Week 6 with Grossman throwing four interceptions and losing two fumbles. They were not so lucky last Sunday, as five more turnovers from the quarterback position proved too much to overcome in a 31-13 drubbing at the hands of Miami.
Grossman will look to rebound against the New York Giants in what is sure to be a hostile environment at the Meadowlands on Sunday Night Football.
"They got a great defense," Grossman said of the Giants on Wednesday. "They play fast. They play tough. Every position on the field is a good player and someone we're going to have to worry about. But right now, Wednesday, we're just worried about general scheme of their defense and how we're going to attack that and go get better on the practice field."
Turnovers are killing the Bears because opposing offenses are being given short fields to work with, but Grossman feels his mistakes are correctable.
"Just eliminate the bad plays," he said. "The disaster plays. For the most part, go through my reads and make good decisions. And then there's one play where just I can't even explain what I was thinking. It was a bad pass here and there that really hurt our team. So just eliminate the terrible plays, and that can easily be fixed. And I'm going to go do that this week."
Although there are striking similarities in the stat column, Grossman doesn't see much correlation between his shortcomings in Arizona and his failures agaist Miami.
"Not too much," he said. "I think they're completely different bad games. I thought we had our chances in this game. We moved the ball pretty well. We got into a rhythm early. We drove down the field and converted some third downs, especially in the first quarter. And then they got after us a little bit. But for the most part, I just need to fix whatever I did wrong. There's a lot of things I did wrong. I can't get into it right now. Just go back to the drawing board and make sure you take care of the football and still make plays."
It will be even tougher for Grossman to return to form because perhaps his most dangerous weapon will be in street clothes. Bernard Berrian suffered a rib injury on the first offensive play against Miami and did not return. The third-year wideout is fifth in the NFL in yards per catch (18.3) but will likely be sidelined for a few weeks.
Grossman knows what Berrian brings to the offense and will miss his presence on the outside.
"Bernard's a special player," Grossman said. "He can do things that a lot of players can't. We had a lot of plays for him in the gameplan, but we still need to be able to adjust no matter who goes down. We got a great team. We got a great offense. We just need to execute and adjust on the sidelines and adjust during the course of the game if something like that were to happen. But no doubt he's a great player, and we missed him a lot."
There seems to be a buzz around the league that Grossman will make mistakes if he has pressure in his face. He was near perfect in a Week 7 beatdown of the 49ers at Soldier Field, but his offensive line didn't allow him to hit the turf once in that game. Against Miami, he was sacked three times and forced to throw much sooner than he would have liked on several occasions.
Grossman is comfortable stepping up in the pocket and buying himself some extra time to throw, but he says that option hasn't been there very often this season.
"If there's a lane to run up in," Grossman elaborated, "throughout my career, I've done that. I've jumped up in the lane. But this year, there usually hasn't been a lane for me to get through. It's usually around the end that I can make sure I get out of the pocket and throw the ball away to eliminate the sack. That's what I pretty much go to. I'm concentrating on giving the route time to develop as much as possible. And then when I feel pressure, I just need to get out of the pocket so I have the ability to throw it away.
Although he will never be a true threat running the football, Grossman knows he needs to find ways to give his receivers time to break open.
"There are times when I need to step up a little bit and create a play more than I do," he said. "But at the same time, to eliminate the sack is second priority as far as going down (and) making sure I give the route time to work."
Grossman does catch a break this week because perenniel All-Pro defensive end Michael Strahan will be out of the lineup with a sprained right foot.