Turns out Brian Griese didn't give the Bears any better chance to win than Rex Grossman did. But the 32-year-old journeyman will have additional opportunities before the Bears go back to Grossman.
The reviews of Griese's first Bears start weren't much better than those for Grossman's first three games this season. In his first start in almost two years, the 10-year veteran threw three interceptions, two of which killed great scoring chances, while another was returned for a touchdown. Griese, who completed 34 of 52 passes for 286 yards (68.3 passer rating), including touchdowns of 15 yards to Muhsin Muhammad and one yard to Desmond Clark, was also sacked six times for 52 yards in losses.
"It wasn't good enough," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "As far as rusty, he hasn't played a lot, but the quarterback position has to protect the football. We turned the ball over again this week and we can't do that."
That's why Grossman lost the job to Griese, but the Bears aren't expected to flip-flop between the two, and barring a change in philosophy, Griese will start Sunday night at Green Bay in a desperation game for the Bears, who at 1-3 are already three games behind the 4-0 Packers.
The Bears' offense came into Sunday's game ranked 30th in total yards and 29th in passing yards and 28th in scoring. They hoped for a spark from Griese but didn't get it. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner was asked if he thought the offense worked any better with Griese instead of Grossman.
"It didn't seem to," Turner said, "and we haven't played well yet offensively, so regardless of who's in there or what's going on offensively, we just have to put it together and play better; and quit turning the ball over."
Griese's interceptions were killers. The Bears were leading 7-3 and had the ball six yards from the Lions' end zone with time running out in the first half, when Griese failed to lead Bernard Berrian sufficiently and the ball was picked off by Fernando Bryant at the one-yard line with 29 seconds left.
Early in the third quarter, Mark Anderson sacked and stripped Lions quarterback Jon Kitna, and Brandon McGowan recovered for the Bears at the Lions' 12-yard line. But three plays later Griese gave the ball back to Detroit with his second interception when he threw behind Berrian and the pass was picked off by linebacker Ernie Sims at the four-yard line.
"Any time you turn the ball over, obviously it's bad," Turner said. "But when you don't take advantage of opportunities, you're asking for trouble. We had a great opportunity there. Our defense played great, they gave us a lot of opportunities to win the game. (When) we get the ball on the 12-yard line and don't get any points out of it, it's awfully tough to win."
While Griese remains the starter, the Bears haven't given up on Grossman.
Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, who drafted the former Florida star in the first round with the 22nd overall pick in 2003 isn't pleased with the chain of events that have resulted in the benching of the five-year veteran, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
"It's disappointing only because Rex has put in a ton of time not only this off-season but also going through the injuries," Angelo said. "It's unfortunate, but it doesn't mean that Rex's career is over or anything like that. It's just we needed to make a change given that we have to put the best people out there each and every Sunday that we feel gives us the best opportunity (to win).
"We're certainly not blaming Rex for the demise of the offense thus far."
With 12 games left, Grossman still has time to salvage his season and his Bears career, according to the Bears' general manager.
"It's way too early in the season to be making determinations on anybody's future," Angelo said. "We've got a lot of football left to play, but we have to address that at the right time."
The Lions are 3-1 entering Sunday's game at Washington — after winning only three games all of last season — but they are still working out the kinks in their offense.
The Lions entered Sunday's game as the NFL's top passing team and 29th-ranked rushing team. They were last in rushing last season. They were expected to pass early and often against a Chicago defense missing its entire starting secondary.
But the Lions tried to establish the run, and a funny thing happened: The people who were questioning why the Lions couldn't or wouldn't run the ball questioned why they weren't throwing it.
Quarterback Jon Kitna's answer?
"The injuries to their secondary is not going to affect their pass defense," Kitna said. "Their pass defense is all based on that front four. As long as those front four are healthy, you're going to have trouble."
The Lions have wanted to run the ball more, but they also have been having pass protection problems — nine sacks last week, six sacks this week — and needed to keep the Bears' pass rush at bay.
"You want to establish it," coach Rod Marinelli said. "You've got to slow the rusher down a little bit and make him dig in a little bit. We work on it, and we work on it. Sometimes it doesn't look like we do. But we do. ... Where it really showed up for us was that last drive of the game."
With a 24-20 lead in the fourth quarter, the Lions ate up 5:14 with an eight-play, 62-yard scoring drive. They ran five times for 26 yards and a touchdown.
"We're going to be a good running football team," Kitna said. "I think we proved that today. But the fact is, we are a pass-first offense. Point blank, it's who we are. It's what we do best."
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Now that he has taken 420 out of circulation, Brett Favre has a chance to help the Packers attain a previously unthinkable 5-0 start.
Green Bay continued its surprising early-season tear Sunday, hanging on for a 23-16 win at Minnesota. The day was underscored by Favre setting the league record for touchdown passes.
He connected with Greg Jennings on a 16-yard slant with 4:56 left in the first quarter for career touchdown throw No. 421.
Jennings also was on the receiving end of Favre's 420th touchdown the previous week, which matched the milestone held by Dan Marino.
Favre bumped the total to 422 with a 33-yard strike to rookie James Jones in the fourth quarter.
"I'm so glad we won the game. There was so much emphasis on this record and not the game itself," Favre said. "Everyone's like, ‘What are you going to do? Are you going to have a big celebration?' Put yourself in my shoes. I want to help this team win. I do not want us to get blindsided by this record and what we're actually here for."
The Packers kept pace with Dallas as the NFC's lone unbeaten teams and will play host to Chicago in the nationally televised Sunday night game.
Green Bay is 4-0 for the first time since 1998 and only the second time since the Vince Lombardi-led championship era of the 1960s.
A win over the Bears would complete a sweep of what before the season was considered the Packers' toughest stretch of the schedule. They opened with wins over three straight playoff teams from last season, culminating with a comeback victory over the Chargers on Sept. 23.
What's more, with a victory Sunday, Green Bay, which has won eight straight dating to the end of last season, would have a four-game lead on consensus favorite Chicago in the NFC North.
Although Detroit is nipping at their heels just a game back, the Packers consider reigning NFC champion Chicago as their primary challenger for regaining division supremacy after a two-year slide.
Favre's tremendous efficiency (65.9 completion percentage, only two interceptions) in a decidedly pass-oriented offense and commitment to bring along the league's youngest team are standing out more so than his record-breaking achievements.
"He cares about the record, but it's not the most important thing," defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "He cares about winning. That's when you know you have a special teammate."
Favre on Sunday also eclipsed Marino's league standard for pass attempts (8,358). Favre has 8,393 after going 32-of-45 for 344 yards.
Packers equipment manager Red Batty was quick to reach Jennings in the end zone after the momentous touchdown grab and get the football, which was headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
"I think we are going to let it sit in the Hall of Fame for a year or two," Favre said. "I'm sure after that I will keep it."