INDIANAPOLIS—No matter what the scoreboard said Monday night at the RCA Dome, this was a loss for the Bears.
Of whatever skeptics had started to believe about quarterback Rex Grossman becoming efficient enough during training camp to avoid the depths that defined his inconsistency last year.
The 27-24 exhibition victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Colts didn't mean anything. But Grossman went to great lengths to make sure his supporters would have to drive that point home.
Grossman mishandled the football four times in 25 plays, and two of those came pulling away from center. Those were not the kind of Super Bowl memories Bears fans wanted to relive.
"We should be beyond that," coach Lovie Smith said of the botched center-quarterback exchanges.
"I promise you it won't be a problem," Grossman said.
It wasn't the only one on a night the offense took a half-step backward.
The cringing started when Robert Mathis knocked the ball out of Grossman's hands on the Colts' 25-yard line and Ed Johnson recovered. It continued on the next series when Grossman forced an interception that Colts cornerback Marlin Jackson picked off when Rashied Davis failed to get position on a slant pattern.
Then Grossman dropped a snap on the next series at his own 4. Later in the second quarter the ball hit the ground again when it fell out of Grossman's hands at the Colts' 3, but center Olin Kreutz recovered.
A problem with the cadence created the first botched snap and Grossman blamed some sweat on his forearm on the second but, valid or not, excuses are so 2006.
"It's unacceptable is what it is," Kreutz said, trying to deflect criticism he knows will find Grossman.
The stat sheet shows that Grossman completed a crisp 9 of 11 passes for 59 yards and directed the No. 1 offense to drives that produced a touchdown and a field goal. But the numbers aren't what will keep Chicago buzzing until Saturday's next glimpse of Grossman. Nor were they what WBBM-AM analyst Tom Thayer focused on during Monday's telecast when he referred to the growing competition at the quarterback position.
Backup Brian Griese looking sharp for the second straight week only will revive a debate that is hard to imagine Smith ever restarting.
"We can't have those types of things happen, but they did," Smith said. "We will just go back to the drawing board."
Don't expect a blank easel when Smith starts addressing the quarterback position.
If a pattern begins to form during the regular season, that will be a different argument. But Grossman's off-season progress has earned him the right to have a game as bad as the one he pitched against the Colts.
You can't go into a game insisting it doesn't matter and then overreact and suggest starting a quarterback controversy based on the level of play in that game. That's as illogical as it is unfair.