By K.C. Johnson
Tribune staff reporter
12:11 AM EDT, August 19, 2006
For the second straight week, Rex Grossman delivered an underwhelming, if more accurate, performance. Meanwhile, backup Brian Griese looked like he was singing in the rain, acting as cool behind center as Gene Kelly in a dance routine.
The Bears' 24-3 victory seemed to take a back seat to a quarterback situation that might give management pause.
Then again, this move seemed intriguing: Following Griese's 9-yard touchdown pass to Justin Gagethe Bears' third touchdown drive in Griese's four possessions in two exhibitionsKyle Orton trotted in.
Griese's short night featured him completing 2 of 4 passes for 16 yards. Playing without starting receiver Muhsin Muhammad or either of the Bears' top two tailbacks, Grossman finished 7 of 14 yards for 83 yards and an interception.
"That is not a conversation that I am really going to talk about because that has nothing to do with me," Grossman told WBBM-AM when asked about a quarterback controversy. "I'm trying to do exactly what I'm supposed to do on each play and keep getting better. It seems like I have done that. We didn't put any points on the board, but we moved the ball."
Luckily for Grossman, the Bears took a 14-3 lead before he had taken the field for his second possession.
Linebacker Brian Urlacher disappointed any soggy, late-arriving tailgaters by stepping in front of a Philip Rivers pass intended for Antonio Gates and scampering 64 yards for a TD just 91 seconds after kickoff.
After an exchange of punts, San Diego mounted a drive thanks to some shoddy tackling by the Bears. The Chargers marched 55 yards in eight plays, settling for Nate Kaeding's 43-yard field goal.
Rashied Davis only needed 16 seconds to change the score. He returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards, badly juking Kaeding in the process.
The defense and special-teams scores couldn't mask Grossman's inability to get the Bears on the board for the second straight game. The Bears did collect seven first downs on Grossman's four possessionsthree by San Diego penalty.
"We need to be able to get more production from our offense," coach Lovie Smith said. "Rex has been hit quite a bit, but we need to do more."
On the Bears' first possession, offensive coordinator Ron Turner called for more balance than he had in San Francisco last Friday. Grossman completed two passes for first downs, one to Rashied Davis for 7 yards and one to Bernard Berrian for 18. But the drive stalled after a second-down sack.
Grossman can thank Berrian that he didn't finish with two interceptions. On first down of the Bears' second possession, Berrian tipped an underthrown pass away from Drayton Florence. Grossman then threw incomplete to Davis on third down, forcing a punt after three plays.
Davis dropped a Grossman pass on the first play of their third possession. But a taunting penalty on Antonio Cromartie gave the Bears a first down anyway. Then, a no-gain rush by Adrian Peterson and back-to-back bad throws to Davis and Justin Gage forced another punt.
Grossman's final pass was his worst. After driving the Bears from their own 17 to the San Diego 24, Grossman threw into double coverage near the goal line, trying to find Gabe Reid. Instead, safety Marlon McCree stepped in front for the easy interception and touchback.
Grossman had completed a 24-yard pass to Davis to convert a third down, a 14-yard pass to Berrian and a 10-yard pass to fullback Jason McKiehis fourth straight completionearlier on the drive.
"That interception is something I cannot do," Grossman said.
Cheers greeted Griese when he entered just after the second-half kickoff. Griese just missed freeing Gage on an 80-yard touchdown on his first drive, which fizzled after three plays.
But Devin Hester's 42-yard punt return set Griese and the Bears up at San Diego's 38 on his second and final possession. P.J. Pope burst up the middle for 14 yards to convert on fourth-and-1. And Griese took advantage, firing a dart to Gage on a slant pattern for a 21-3 Bears lead.
"I can't say that I am [surprised]," Griese told WBBM-AM. "I just try to go out and read the defense, make the right plays and the right reads and pull the trigger when it is called for."
"[The second team] has made plays," Grossman said. "All I can say is [Griese] did a great job."