LAKE FOREST, Ill. (Nov. 27, 2006) -- The Chicago Bears lined up to support Rex Grossman after another shaky performance by their young quarterback.
"He's our quarterback," Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz said. "I mean, we're not like trying to convince everybody that he is a good quarterback. He is a good quarterback."
Grossman's turnovers have come in waves and often detracted from the team's 9-2 start. He threw three more interceptions -- running his season total to 14 -- and fumbled at the 5-yard line on a botched snap exchange with Kreutz in a 17-13 loss to the New England Patriots.
Coach Lovie Smith reiterated that Grossman was still his No. 1 quarterback, and several of the Bears echoed those sentiments.
"Five games into the year, everybody was talking about him as the MVP of the league," Kreutz said.
But in the last six games, there have been several poor outings, prompting critics to wonder if an erratic Grossman -- who can also look sharp at times with his strong arm -- can lead the Bears to a championship. Or, if they would be better served by turning to veteran Brian Griese, who's thrown eight passes all season.
Grossman committed six turnovers in a one-point win at Arizona on Oct. 16 and four more in a 31-13 loss to Miami on Nov. 5.
In Week 12 he was under pressure from the Patriots, who sacked him just once but hit him nine other times.
"He hasn't dipped, we've all dipped on offense," Kreutz said. "So the way I try to get back is I try to get the ball up to him and then we try to block for him better. So you know, it's not just Rex."
After Grossman fumbled the snap in the second quarter, he tried to retrieve the ball and had his hand stepped on. He was seen pouring water on it and shaking it on the sideline, but Smith said that had no bearing on his play. Grossman finished 15-of-34 for 176 yards.
"He was able to finish. It wasn't a factor at all," Smith said.
Grossman's mistakes came on a day when the Bears' defense forced five turnovers, but Chicago was denied a sweep of its tough three-game East Coast road trip. The Bears had beaten the Giants and the Jets to start the swing.
And despite Grossman's struggles, the Bears are poised to win the NFC North. They'll clinch the division and a playoff berth by beating Minnesota on Dec. 3, coupled with one loss by the Packers.
They're also in a strong position to finish with the best record in the NFC -- they haven't lost to a conference opponent this season -- and their final five games are against NFC teams with losing records. That would mean a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
"I think we now see the good things that we've done and some of the bad things that we need to clean up and now is the time to do that. You do want to play your best football now and that's what I think we'll do," Smith said.
But can Grossman do that, as well? It's a big question facing the Bears. And once they get in the postseason, can he be a winning quarterback in that type of pressure situation?
"Yeah, why not?" asked veteran guard Ruben Brown. "We all have to win the playoffs, it's not all on him. He's the leader, he's our quarterback, but we have to help him, we're his assistants. You're only as good as the people around you, and we have to step it up as much as he has to step it up."