After his 1.3 passer rating stinkbomb against the Vikings at home in Week 13, head coach Lovie Smith looked like he was finally thinking about pulling the plug on his young QB and making the switch to veteran Brian Griese. For the first time all season, Griese was given an increased workload with the first unit in practice, and rumors were swirling that he might see the field if Grossman struggled in the early going against the Rams. The Bears may have been 10-2 with the former Gator at the helm, but Smith also acknowledged that he needed better play under center.
Grossman responded with a very efficient effort on Monday Night Football, completing 13 of 23 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns. Most importantly, he did not throw an interception, did not fumble, and was not sacked. Two kickoff return TDs from rookie Devin Hester certainly helped, but Grossman was largely responsible for a resounding 42-27 victory at the Edward Jones Dome.
Grossman seemed to be having fun again playing quarterback and definitely needed that game just to feel better the offense as whole.
"Yeah, it was a fun one," Grossman said on Wednesday at Halas Hall. "Just the fact that we made plays and got back into a rhythm as an offense. Yeah, I'm glad we played the way we did."
Grossman felt in control of the offense again and took what was available instead of trying to do too much with the football.
"I was happy that I took what the defense gave me," he said, "pushed the ball up the field when needed, and when they backed out of something, I just hit some crossing patterns to the tight end because the linebackers were getting deep. And just get the ball to Desmond [Clark ] right now, and he'd turn it up for a nice 10-yard gain. And then when the linebackers did come up on a play-action, I got the ball to [Muhsin Muhammad] and Bernard [Berrian] on a couple of different crossing patterns."
Of Grossman's two touchdown tosses, he was most pleased with the second one to Muhammad. With just about four minutes remaining in the third quarter, Grossman threw the fade pattern to Muhammad on the left sideline and took his chances against one-on-one coverage. Muhammad made a leaping grab on a perfectly thrown ball for his fifth scoring catch of the season.
Grossman feels that play can't be defended if executed correctly and could be a big weapon for the offense down the stretch.
"I'm glad we hooked up with Moose on a fade route because I think it's hard to stop," Grossman said. "There's not too many defenses that can stop that, especially in the red zone. If we get good at that, it could be a serious weapon for us heading into the end of the year."
When asked what he needs to do in order to get this team to Super Bowl XLI, Grossman said he has to give the playmakers around him a chance to do their thing.
"I need to start playing the way I'm capable of so that I can allow my teammates to play the way they're supposed to play and we can move the ball as an offense," he said. "Hopefully go win championships and improve in our playoff position and everything like that."
If the Redskins upset the surging Saints in Week 15, the Bears can wrap up home-field advantage in the NFC if they beat the Buccaneers on Sunday. The Bucs come into this game just 3-10 on the season and completely decimated by injuries. They still have some name players - most notably receiver Joey Galloway on offense and linebacker Derrick Brooks on defense - but are young and inexperienced on both sides of the ball.
However, Grossman is not taking the Bucs lightly despite the reality that they are way out of the playoff hunt.
"They're an extremely talented defense," he said, "and they've got a lot of great players. They haven't had a great season, but they're definitely a dangerous team. We need to go out and execute and have a great week of practice. It's nice that they're the same type of defense that we face in our practices against our own team. But basically, we need to really understand what we're doing as an offense and then just go out and apply our rules."
Grossman silenced many of his critics with the way he played this past Monday, and it appears that he learned a lot about himself, too.
"Maybe the biggest lesson that I've learned this year [is] just because you played well last week doesn't mean you're going to play well the next week," he said. "So take the same mental approach as if I was just booed off the field every single week."
Whether those Soldier Field boobirds make their presence felt this Sunday afternoon remains to be seen.
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