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Grossman's struggles resurface at worst time

MIAMI (Feb. 4, 2007) -- After a week when his qualifications as a championship-caliber quarterback were questioned, Rex Grossman didn't do a whole lot in the Super Bowl to silence his many critics.

On the contrary, Grossman turned in the kind of performance that had many observers wondering whether the Bears could win a Super Bowl title with him.

As they did all week, Grossman's teammates stood by their man after their 29-17 loss.

"We stuck by Rex all year long and we will continue to stand by Rex," cornerback Charles Tillman said. "One game doesn't make or break a player. Just because you have a bad game in the Super Bowl and you have 15 good games, are you considered a bad player because you had a bad game?"

Grossman indeed had a bad game, even though it wasn't as horrible as some of his flops during the regular season. While Peyton Manning took Super Bowl MVP honors, Grossman threw for only 165 yards with two interceptions and two dropped snaps, one that resulted in a turnover and the other in a big loss.

His did complete 20 of 28 passes, but could lead the Bears to only one offensive touchdown, his 4-yard pass to Muhsin Muhammad in the first quarter.

Grossman had a chance to help the Bears pull off the upset with the outcome very much in doubt until the fourth quarter, but he came up short when it mattered most.

The biggest play of the game came on the Bears' first drive of the fourth quarter on a first-and-10 from the Chicago 38. Grossman tried to hit Muhammad, who ran an out-and-up against cornerback Kelvin Hayden. Hayden intercepted the pass and returned the interception 56 yards for a touchdown for the game's final points.

Hayden never bit on the first move and was in better position than Muhammad to catch the soft throw. Hayden made a tremendous play to avoid stepping out of bounds after the pick, but the pass never should have been thrown.

"The corner got his eyes around and saw the ball and made a good play on it," Grossman said. "In hindsight, I wish I would have thrown it away, but I was giving Moose a chance to go up and battle for it."

Muhammad said the play was the result of a miscommunication between him and Grossman.

"It was a bad decision," Muhammad said. "We were on two different pages as to where he was going to throw and where I was going to run.

He didn't think I was going to run past the guy and (Hayden) just kind of sat outside. By the time I saw the ball, I couldn't adjust to it."

The Bears still had a fighting chance after the Hayden touchdown, but the game was pretty much over on the next Chicago possession after Grossman was intercepted again.

This time, Grossman tried to hit Bernard Berrian on a deep post. But his pass hung in the air long enough to allow safety Bob Sanders to come in from the side and pick it off.

It seemed as though Grossman got progressively worse as the game unfolded.

"My confidence never wavered," Grossman said. "It was just a matter of getting into a rhythm as an offense, everyone hitting on all cylinders and getting first downs so that you could get deeper into your game plan. And that never happened."

The steady rain at Dolphin Stadium didn't make things any easier for Grossman, but he said it didn't affect his passing.

"Getting it from center was the only tough part about it, it would slide off my hands," Grossman said. "Once I got a hold of it, I could throw it fine."

Grossman's fumble in the second quarter didn't prove costly, but his dropped snap in the third quarter helped kill what had been a promising drive.

Trailing 19-14 at the time, the Bears moved to a second-and-1 at the Colts 45-yard line. Then Grossman slipped while dropping back to pass and was sacked by Anthony McFarland. On third-and-12 from the Bears 44, Grossman dropped the snap, bobbled it again and then fell on the ball for another 11-yard loss.

"The Colts did a great job of handling all the weather factors, and they played hard," Grossman said. "But there definitely were opportunities for us to take that game, and we didn't."

Grossman also missed a great opportunity to silence his critics, but more important, to remove any doubt as to whether he's the long-term answer at quarterback for the Bears.

As a result, Grossman found himself having to answer questions about next season, more specifically whether there will be a question mark at quarterback.

"All I can talk about is this game right now," he said. "It's a frustrating loss, and I'm excited about next year."

Grossman's teammates shared his disappointment, but weren't about to point fingers at their quarterback.

"We had nobody on the roster who played a whole game, nobody deserves accolades," said tight end Desmond Clark, who led the Bears with six catches. "Everybody deserves criticism. There's not one person who deserves all the criticism.

"Rex is a resilient guy. He'll step up. He's not going to shy away from the criticism he'll receive. We support him, so it will be easy for him to rebound."

Alain Poupart is associate editor at Curtis Publishing Company, which produces Dolphin Digest, Steelers Digest, Eagles Insider and Draft Digest.

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