Rex Grossman played a more conservative game Sunday and, as a result, a much better one than in his last outing, a six-turnover calamity against the Cardinals.
Grossman tied his season best with 23 completions in 29 attempts for 252 yards and threw three touchdowns without an interception or a sack. His passer rating was over 98 in four of five games before his 10.7 clunker on Monday night. The big bounce back was important to the Bears' offense and Grossman's status as a franchise quarterback.
"Anytime you don't play as well as you would like, you want to come back and have the type of game that you're capable of having," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "And that's Rex. All quarterbacks will have a bad game here and there, but the good ones don't have a lot of bad games. Rex is a good quarterback, and we thought he would come out and play the way he did today. He played an outstanding football game. He made the right decisions. He took what the defense gave him most of the day."
Instead of forcing the ball deep down the field, the four-year veteran usually took the safer, higher-percentage option and wound up with a passer rating of 137.4, the second best of his career, just short of the 148.0 he posted in Week Two against the Lions. He hit tight end Desmond Clark with 1- and 27-yard touchdowns and collaborated with Muhsin Muhammad on a five-yard score.
"That's the key in this league and the key in anything you do, just learn from your mistakes and try to apply them to the next time you do it," Grossman said. "We got some first downs and got into a rhythm pretty quick. That always helps, but it was just a different game and learning from some of my mistakes and getting better."
By completing 18 of his first 22 passes for 202 yards and all three of his scoring passes in the first half, Grossman helped stake the Bears to a 41 first-half points, which you don't see very often in the NFL.
"Well," said defensive tackle Tommie Harris of the offensive outburst, "when you have Rex Grossman, you do."
"We played really well today, and I definitely don't think they played their best game," said Grossman who rebounded nicely from his worst performance as a pro. "I was just happy as an offense to execute and go out and score points. The defense and special teams gave us great opportunities, especially early to capitalize on the turnovers."
Grossman, who was picked off four times and lost two fumbles in the Monday nighter against the Cardinals, did a 180-degree turnaround from the previous game.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
A once-nearly extinct running attack going off for 200 yards. Brett Favre, at 37, doing a Lambeau Leap for the first time ever. The Packers in the midst of a winning streak for the first time since late in the 2004 season.
Could it be that a rebirth is unfolding in Green Bay?
"Winning sure solves a lot of problems," Favre uttered after the Packers throttled visiting Arizona 31-14 on Sunday.
Winning certainly elicits a whole lot of spontaneous revelry on the part of the quarterback, who only a few weeks ago was bracing himself for a second straight dismal season with Green Bay in the throes of a 1-4 start.
"He's probably the biggest kid in the league," tight end David Martin said.
A week after throwing receiver Donald Driver on to his shoulders with a fireman's carry to celebrate a touchdown connection during the 34-24 win at Miami, Favre paid the Lambeau Field faithful an unprecedented visit. Favre was prodded by Driver to jump into the front row of the stands near the south end zone after the league's only three-time MVP dived across the goal line from a yard out on an improvised keeper in the third quarter.
"He'll be in rehab all week from it," coach Mike McCarthy joked. "But, yeah, he's having fun again."
Favre, who last scored a touchdown with his feet in 2001, doesn't envision reprising the leap into the awaiting arms of fans.
Yet, if the Packers continue to run the football with the authority exhibited in the last two games, there's no telling what could come of this would-be rebuilding season.
"It's not over yet," Driver said. "You look at the NFC right now, there's a lot of 4-4 teams, a lot of 3-4 teams. It's not over. We're still in the hunt.
"I think a lot of people kind of ruled us out. But, the Pack is back. We just have to make sure we take one game at a time and continue playing."
Getting to the break-even point at 4-4 is a distinct possibility. The Packers, who finally gained their first home win after three defeats, play Sunday at 2-5 Buffalo.
"Right now, we're in a mode of stacking successes, getting some momentum as a football team," McCarthy said. "I think we accomplished that with the win over Arizona, and we need to carry that in to Buffalo."
No doubt the Packers have been piling up the rushing numbers. They had a rough go of it initially in trying to break in three new starting offensive linemen, including two rookie guards, in the new zone-blocking scheme and enduring hamstring problems for Ahman Green, who was feeling the residual effects of his ruptured thigh last season.
Yet, the ground game that was a dominant staple of the offense with a healthy Green from 2002 to ‘04 has resurfaced. The Packers followed up a 155-yard effort against Miami by gashing the Cardinals for 203 yards — their highest output in two years.
Green and young backup Vernand Morency co-starred Sunday with 106 and 101 yards, respectively, becoming the first Green Bay tandem to reach the 100-yard plateau in the same game since Eddie Lee Ivery and Gerry Ellis in the memorable "Snow Bowl" against Tampa Bay on Dec. 1, 1985, at Lambeau.
"When we have something like that, that's special," said Green, who also had two rushing touchdowns for the first time since 2004.
The emergence of Morency, acquired in an early-season trade with Houston, is key because McCarthy wants to limit Green's carries to about 20 to preserve his aching legs. Morency averaged a robust 9.2 yards per carry Sunday before leaving late in the game with a potentially serious injury to his lower back.
"You have one guy that's speedy and quick to the hole," Green said of Morency. "Myself, I'm more of the bruiser right now. I feel fast and I get in there, but I like to pound it out, like to have fun with the linebackers and the D-linemen."
The biggest beneficiary of the long-awaited run support is Favre, who has a short-handed cast at receiver — rookie standout Greg Jennings was out Sunday with an ankle injury.
Favre had 35 pass attempts the previous week and only 25 in the latest game, pushing his streak without throwing an interception to three games. The last time that happened was early in the 2002 season.
"It's fun throwing touchdown passes; it's fun throwing for a lot of yards. But, there's no substitute for winning," Favre said. "I love to compete, and whatever it takes to win, I'll do."