Brady, Manning and... Grossman?

The talk around Chicago is all about the defense, but there's one player on the Bears not getting much respect, and that's Rex Grossman. While Grossman has looked awful at times, he actually only trails Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the one category that matters... scoring. Is Grossman the weak link in Chicago?

While there isn't much basis in fact to the notion, there has been some speculation that Rex Grossman is the weak link on a Bears team destined for Super Bowl XLI if only it can overcome its quarterback.

The Bears' quarterback was far from impressive last week against the Jets, but he didn't turn the ball over once and threw his 18th touchdown pass of the season. Only the Colts' Peyton Manning and the Patriots' Tom Brady, widely considered the two best quarterbacks in the NFL, have thrown for more scores.

Brady has one more touchdown pass than Grossman, but he's thrown 22 more passes. Manning has two more touchdown throws, but he's passed 47 times more. And no one would argue that Manning doesn't have a much more impressive arsenal of targets than Grossman.

On Sunday at 3:15 on Gillette Stadium's newly installed FieldTurf, Grossman will have his best opportunity yet to refute critics when he takes on the stingy Patriots defense and mastermind coach Bill Belichick.

But it hardly seems like the four-year veteran is an albatross. Grossman has been intercepted 11 times this season, but so have the Broncos' Jake Plummer and the Jets' Chad Pennington. Eli Manning's been picked off 13 times, and his 77.5 passer rating is a full six points lower than Grossman's. The Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, who led his team to victory in last year's Super Bowl, has been intercepted 17 times.

Even though this is Grossman's first full year as a starter, his 83.5 passer rating is 13th in the league and higher than the career mark of any quarterback in team history. If he's such an anchor around the neck of the Bears, why have they won 11 of the last 12 games he's played in?

It's valid if critics want to slam Grossman for being inconsistent. What young quarterback isn't? That doesn't mean he's like cement overshoes on the feet of the offense.

He stunk up the joint on Monday night against the Cardinals in Arizona on Oct. 16 and in the Bears' only loss, the 31-13 fiasco at home two Sundays ago. The four-year veteran, who spent most of the past two seasons rehabbing knee and ankle injuries, was intercepted seven times in those games and lost three fumbles. But, in the Bears' other eight games, Grossman has 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

It didn't come as much of a surprise, either, when Grossman followed up each of his awful outings with excellent games, throwing three touchdowns each time with a total of just one interception.

Following the loss to Miami, Grossman struggled early in the Giants game, completing one of his first six passes for 13 yards with one interception. But he completed 17 of 24 passes after that for 233 yards and three touchdowns and a passer rating of 141.0.

"Rex didn't start out well, but good quarterbacks find a way," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "I'm really pleased with how he led us back in the end. All quarterbacks go through times like that, and I believe in letting a guy come back from it. We have confidence in Rex. He's our guy."

That feeling is shared by Grossman's teammates.

"Rex has always been a good quarterback," Bears five-time Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz said. "I knew he was going to come back and be all right."

But if outsiders want to believe otherwise, that's OK with Grossman.

"I know I've had some great games this year, and I've had some so-so and bad games," he said. "Hopefully people come into games thinking I am the weakness, and I can prove them wrong."

Anyone paying attention has already seen the proof.


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