With the Bears' season on the verge of slipping away, it was rescued on one play by Rex Grossman, the favorite whipping boy of frustrated Bears fans and callers to sports talk radio shows. Now, it's possible the future will also be in Grossman's hands.
Playing in relief of starter Brian Griese, who suffered a shoulder injury when he was sacked by Kirk Morrison late in the second quarter, Grossman promptly fumbled the first snap he had taken since being benched after three games, although he managed to recover the bobble.
Of his first 13 passes, Grossman completed just six for 83 yards and guided the Bears to zero points in 29 minutes. But his 14th throw was a long, high arc that dropped perfectly into the hands of Bernard Berrian, who caught it on the dead run and sprinted into the end zone for a 59-yard touchdown with 3:11 remaining. It gave the Bears a 10-6 lead just 53 seconds after Sebastian Janikowski's 53-yard field goal put the Raiders up 6-3 and awakened all who had dozed off during a 33-minute and 40-second scoreless drought by two offensively-challenged teams with a combined five victories.
"It's a great feeling to come in and pull one out," said the embattled Grossman, who dismissed any talk of personal vindication. "It was a tough game. Just coming in off the bench [and] being able to help your team win, it's a great feeling."
Five of the NFC teams ahead of the Bears in the wild-card chase lost Sunday, leaving them just two games shy of the final postseason berth.
The Bears gave no details of Griese's injury beyond head coach Lovie Smith's admission that the 10-year veteran, "Went out with a shoulder injury. That's about all we know right now. Hopefully it's not anything too serious."
No matter the extent of the injury, Griese is unlikely to return for Sunday's game at Seattle against the Seahawks and possibly for much longer than that.
"We don't make decisions like that around here at this time," Smith said when asked who would start this week. "Let us enjoy this win."
The Bears' sputtering offense coughed and wheezed 49 yards in 12 plays to set up Robbie Gould's 32-yard field goal with 6:51 left in the half, which tied the game at 3-3.
QB Rex Grossman
Paul Sakuma/AP Images
The offense, which still hasn't scored a first-quarter touchdown since Dec. 17 of last season, had its typical putrid beginning. On 15 first-quarter offensive plays, the Bears totaled 37 yards. They picked up 12 yards on eight runs against the NFL's 30th-ranked run defense.
But under Grossman, who finished with an outstanding 109.8 passer rating, the Bears managed a respectable 173 yards in the second half. His 59-yard toss to Berrian was the second-longest play from scrimmage of the season, and he also connected on a 33-yard throw to Muhsin Muhammad, who had a season-high 87 yards on four catches. In Grossman's first three starts, he didn't have a passer rating higher than 56.0, he was intercepted six times while throwing just one touchdown pass, and he was verbally abused far and wide.
But his teammates say they never lost faith in the quarterback who helped them reach Super Bowl XLI.
"We have faith in Rex," center Olin Kreutz said. "He stuck with us, even after being demoted. He's always been a pro. He takes the criticism, he gets demoted, he just stays and works. We knew he would be ready to play if he had to play. He didn't just say, 'You know what? The way this city treats me, screw it.' He didn't say that. He just came to work, kept working, and I hope people appreciate that. After all he has taken, he didn't shut it down."
NEWS & NOTES
DE Adewale Ogunleye tied his career best with three sacks, giving him seven for the season and vaulting him into a tie for the team lead with DT Tommie Harris. … WR Muhsin Muhammad's 87 receiving yards were a season best on four catches. … QB Brian Griese left the game against the Raiders with a shoulder injury. His status for next week remains unknown. … QB Rex Grossman finished with a passer rating of 109.8 thanks to his final pass of the game, a 59-yard touchdown to Bernard Berrian. … RB Cedric Benson got a season-high 29 carries but produced just 76 yards, a 2.6-yard average. … TE Greg Olsen was shut out after catching four or more passes in four straight games.
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