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Grossman fizzles but unfazed
Rex Grossman walked out of the visiting locker room late Friday night wearing a Bears hat and a smile, cloaked with enthusiasm that implied he either chose to ignore the stat sheet or had not seen it yet.
Grossman had completed 2 of 9 passes for only 31 yards in the Bears' 24-10 loss to the Browns, yet the quarterback beamed like a rookie who had just played his way onto the roster.
"The bottom line is the preseason's over and as a team we couldn't be more excited," Grossman said. "We're all pumped up to play Detroit in Soldier Field in the opener."
Maybe forgetting Friday night was the best idea.
Coach Lovie Smith bucked NFL convention and left Grossman in for the entire first quarter to give Grossman and his receivers a little longer to get accustomed to each other. That only prolonged the agony for the Bears offense. In the rock 'n' roll capital of America, Grossman looked more like a warmup act than a rising star.
"We're not pleased with our passing game, there's no way to get around that," said Smith, 2-2 after his first exhibition season. "We know we need to get better and we will."
Take away a 16-yard completion to rookie wide receiver Bernard Berrian and the starting offense ran 15 plays for 27 yards, struggling for the second week to build momentum.
Though Grossman's command in practice did not carry over into exhibition games, in which Grossman completed 20 of 48 passes for 220 yards, he considered concerns premature.
"I don't really care about my stats right now," Grossman said. "I felt comfortable with my progressions, and as soon as we get into the flow of a gameplay four quarters and game-plan during the weekI'll feel great about our offense."
Grossman left after leading a 10-play, 27-yard scoring drive that culminated in Paul Edinger's 44-yard field goal with 2 minutes 34 seconds left in the first quarter. The Browns kept that drive alive with two penaltiesoffside on fourth-and-4 and defensive holding on former Bears cornerback Roosevelt Williams on third-and-7that enabled Grossman to show some semblance of progress.
"It's hard to develop a rhythm playing only one quarter, but it's still good to get out there and feel what going on and see the field more," Grossman said. "It's just good experience."
Smith's intention was to provide valuable experience for Bears backups hoping to make a strong final impression before final cuts are made Sunday.
The Bears started the game without their starting corps of linebackers or secondary, and also sat out running back Thomas Jones and Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz. Smith also decided against playing Jonathan Quinn to rest his sore left shoulder and let rookie Craig Krenzel replace Grossman.
Two players critical to the Bears' success this season, defensive end Adewale Ogunleye and tight end Desmond Clark, made their exhibition debuts to shake off their rust.
Ogunleye was active for someone who hadn't seen live contact in nine months, and his mere presence in the Bears' huddle was enough to excite Smith.
"He got a little bit of pressure," Smith said. "We were pleased with what he was able to do."
Focusing on positives, as he tends to do, Smith also raved about the work of backup running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson started in place of Jones and gained 68 yards on 18 carries, giving him 214 yards on 47 carries (4.5 average) in four exhibition games.
Brock Forsey also did well running behind the third offensive line in the second half, giving Smith a nice dilemma Sunday when he is likely to have to choose between the two for the third running back.
"Adrian has been good all training camp," Smith said.
While the backups at running back looked solid, depth in the secondary renewed concerns.
The Browns' first touchdown came on a 37-yard pass from Jeff Garcia to Andre Davis over right cornerback Todd McMillon, who was auditioning to replace the injured R.W. McQuarters.
"Great throw, great catch," McMillon said. "There wasn't much I could do about it."
Nathan Vasher, the player with whom McMillon is competing, didn't give up a touchdown and caused a fumble but didn't really distinguish himself.
Another backup cornerback, rookie Alfonso Marshall, intercepted a pass at the 1 that thwarted a Cleveland scoring drive three plays after getting called for a 41-yard pass-interference penalty.
Both newly signed cornerbacks, Blue Adams and Vontez Duff, made mistakes that led to touchdowns. Adams let Andre King get loose for a 4-yard touchdown pass with 8:36 left that put the Browns in front 17-10, and Duff lost Richard Alston on a 35-yard score with 6:13 left.
"We need to tighten that up," Smith said.
The Bears' first turnover of the exhibitions, Ahmad Merritt's fumbled reverse at the Bears' 33 in the third quarter, led to Phil Dawson's 33-yard field goal.
The reverse reminded the Lions and anybody else watching that there are plays in the huge Bears' playbook more dynamic than the ones that haven't worked the last two weeks, Grossman stressed.
"We're just holding back on some things until the regular season," Grossman said. "Next week, it's completely different."