MIAMI - This was the Rex Grossman that the Chicago Bears and their fans feared.
When the Bears needed a clutch throw to catch up in the fourth quarter, their quarterback couldn’t connect.
Instead, Grossman threw a pair of interceptions, one that Kelvin Hayden returned for a touchdown, all but ending Chicago’s chance to win the Super Bowl at rainy Dolphin Stadium.
“A frustrating loss,” Grossman said. “There were definitely opportunities for us to take that game and we didn’t do it.”
Criticized all season for his erratic play and questioned all week before the biggest game about his up-and-down season, Grossman did little to quiet his detractors Sunday night in a 29-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Two fumbled snaps — one he lost, one he didn’t — and then the two underthrown fourth-quarter picks. Two throws that were pretty, well, gross.
“What can you say? In hindsight, I wish I had thrown it away,” Grossman said of the sideline pass he floated toward Muhsin Muhammad that Hayden returned for a score.
“The timing on it wasn’t right,” he said. “I was giving Moose a chance to go up and battle for it. Kind of a hitch and go. The corner got his eyes around and saw the ball and made a good play on it.”
“We were on two different pages where he was going to throw the ball and where I was going to run,” he said.
Grossman’s stats weren’t bad — 20-of-28 for 165 yards. But the Bears had trouble manufacturing drives against Indy’s tough defense. Grossman did have a 4-yard TD pass to Muhammad in the first half, set up by Thomas Jones’ 52-yard run.
But other than Devin Hester’s TD return on the opening kickoff, there was not enough offense, especially in the second half. The Bears managed only 11 first downs, tied for the fifth-fewest total in a Super Bowl. And in the first half, they were only able to run 19 plays because the Colts held onto the ball.
“My confidence never wavered. It was a matter of getting into a rhythm on offense,” Grossman said. “We just couldn’t do well on third-and-medium. We missed some crucial plays and that’s the difference in the Super Bowl.”
He didn’t make excuses, but Grossman acknowledged the slippery conditions were a problem on his second interception and on the snaps he bobbled.
“It was a wet ball sliding right off my hands. The snaps were good,” Grossman said.
Muhammad said he expected the wet conditions would be in the Bears’ favor since they are used to inclement weather.
“I was kind of shocked. I thought we would play better in adverse conditions,” he said. “We had mishaps in ball handling. ... We were kind of out of sync as an offense the whole day. It was tough to get anything going and they did a good job of maintaining possession,” Muhammad said.
This is how it went for Grossman: In the third quarter after he’d completed a pair of passes to move the Bears to a second-and-1 at the Colts’ 45, he dropped back to pass, slipped on the wet grass and was sacked for an 11-yard loss.
Facing third down, it got worse. He fumbled the snap, was able to pick the ball up before he was tackled, but another 11-yard loss put the Bears in a fourth-and-23. In two plays the Bears went backward 22 yards, and a promising drive was over.
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“The first one I just tried to run away from pressure in the middle of the field and slipped and then I had the bobbled snap,” Grossman said. “That killed the drive, those were the opportunities we left on the field.”
Losing backup running back Cedric Benson to a knee injury late in the first quarter hurt Chicago’s running attack. Benson’s hard straight-ahead running had softened up defenses while he filled in for Jones. But his absence was not the reason the Bears couldn’t maintain long scoring drives.
The Bears needed more than just the shifty running of Jones. They needed some big plays from their quarterback, and Grossman didn’t provide them.
“We came up short. The two interceptions definitely set us back,” he said. “It didn’t happen. ... It’s extremely disappointing when you get this close to a world championship and you come up short. There is nothing else to say.”
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