Bears win despite letdown from Grossman, offense

By Paul Eide  |   Sunday, December 03, 2006  |  Comments( 3 )

Chicago Bears
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It was about as ugly as the new black pants that that the officials were sporting in the cold weather, but the Chicago Bears will take it.

The Bears became the first team in the NFL to secure a playoff spot with a bruising 23-13 defeat of the Vikings, winning the NFC North division for the second year in a row and repeating for the first time since 1987-'88.

With the temperature hovering in the mid-teens throughout the game, the elements gave way to a brutish display of physicality where speed was effectively neutralized by force. Both defenses were up to the task, forcing an NFL-record 10 combined turnovers (seven via interception) and dictating that the game would be won in ways other than passing the football.

After Rex Grossman and Co. turned the ball over on three of their first four drives, Devin Hester made another huge play with the team in dire need, further cementing his reputation as the most electrifying punt returner in the NFL. His 45-yard punt return didn't just stake the Bears to an early lead, or tie an NFL record with four kick returns for scores in the same season, but also set the tone for what seems to be commonplace since Lovie Smith joined the organization -- defense and special teams outscoring the offense.

"Devin Hester really gave us a boost," Smith said. "He's a special player. I thought every time he touched the football today that he had a chance to score with it, which was big."

After Hester's return, freshly reinstated DB Ricky Manning picked off an errant pass and returned it 54 yards for a score. Defensive lineman Tank Johnson accounted for the last score of the day by tackling Ciatrick Fason in the end zone for the safety, capping off the total of 16 points scored by the Bears' special teams and defense, beating the Vikings almost single-handedly. Special teams were such an integral part of the game for Chicago that aside from outscoring the offense, they actually outgained them, 155-107.

"The defense and special teams pretty much won the game by themselves," said center Olin Kreutz. "We know offensively we've got to get better."

At the end of the game, the talk quickly switched to questions relating to Grossman's performance.

"Rex is our quarterback," Smith said. "There's a difference between perception and reality. Reality is we're 10-2 right now and we just won the division with Rex at quarterback. So that's what I go on. We're not changing. We're 10-2 with Rex as our quarterback."

Say what you will about Grossman and the starting QB situation in Chicago, but one thing is obvious: Grossman can no longer execute. Fox Announcer Dick Stockton summed up the beleaguered QB's afternoon perfectly when he remarked, "Grossman now has the same number of interceptions today as he does completions, which is three."

To say Grossman looked confused would be the nice way to put it, but what it really did was prove that he is no longer mentally in games. The Bears cannot get used to leaning on the defense to win in spite of the offense like they did in '05, and Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith proved in last January's playoffs what can happen if you do.

But, no matter how many bad decisions he makes over the last four games of the year, the Bears are in the playoffs despite his best efforts.
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