Rex back on top after weeks of agony

ST. LOUIS -- All week Chicago Bears coaches Lovie Smith and Ron Turner tried to ease the emotional pain of quarterback Rex Grossman.

They told him that the week of preparation for their 42-27 Monday night victory over the Rams was going to be worse than the game itself. Smith and Turner, whether anyone outside the Bears' organization believes it, are Grossman's biggest fans. They've stood by Grossman when critics called for his benching. Because of increased practice time for backup Brian Griese in the past week, everyone was ready for the demise of Grossman.

Instead, they witnessed his resurrection. Grossman completed 13 of 23 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns against the Rams on Monday night. The quarterback who had the embarrassing 1.3 quarterback rating a week ago registered a 114.4 against the Rams.

"Rex, they are going to love you," Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said as Grossman jogged past an awaiting swarm of reporters.

As it turned out, the media blitz of the past seven weeks was much tougher than the Rams blitz. For Rex, the Hex is over. For one night at least, Grossman ended his seven-week slump.

Grossman looked more uncomfortable in the postgame news conference than he did on the field. Opponents usually blitz no more than six or seven defenders. Grossman had the entire Bears nation and a national audience blitzing him. The story that Griese was taking a third of the snaps in practice and rumors he needed to play well in the first half to keep his job only added to the pressure.

A reporter asked Grossman if he was able to relax.

"Relax," Grossman said in a choppy speech pattern that sounded like a guy in a dentist chair. "I was able to relax. It was easy to relax."

Grossman's problems have been well-documented since he was last seen on ESPN in a miraculous win over the Arizona Cardinals. He completed only 105 of 213 passes for 1,181 yards in seven games. Worse, he had 14 passes intercepted and lost three of four fumbles.

But his teammates still love him, as do his coaches.

"Rex Grossman went through a lot this past week," Smith said. "His game has been dissected by everyone that knows anything about football. There was a lot of pressure on him. I thought he really stepped up to the plate and played outstanding ball. He did exactly what we expected him to do at the quarterback position."

Things came together for Grossman during a tape session with Turner on Saturday. Turner dug up tape of Grossman's first five games when everyone wanted to anoint him MVP.

"Rex, look at that," Turner told Grossman. "You're back, you're decisive, you are making quick reads, you're setting your feet up in the pocket. You are doing all of that stuff you got away from. Let's get back to that and have fun."

Grossman sat in the room quietly. Then a little smile came across his face.

"I'm ready to go play," Grossman told Turner.

No doubt, Grossman might be the most analyzed quarterback of the year. He's been labeled the player who will cost the Bears the Super Bowl. Smith stressed his 10-2 record coming into this game. The media blitzed him with Grossman's embarrassing stats.

Even his entry into the Edwards Jones Dome was overanalyzed. Some reporters thought he looked nervous and bewildered, and they were trying to figure out how that would affect his performance.

"That's the problem because you kick us when you're down," Muhsin Muhammad said to the press after the game. "But he fought through it and handled it like a pro."

In the first couple of possessions, Grossman appeared tentative, but that was understandable. The Rams threw every blitz at him. On a third-and-14 from his 15 during the Bears' first possession, Grossman was rushed into an incompletion by a blitz. On the next possession, he just released a pass as linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa charged at him. Grossman got a break when Tinoisamoa drew a flag for roughing the passer.

Grossman lost one chance to score when Mark Bradley ran toward the end zone when Grossman thought he was going for a 5-yard out to the sideline, the ball sailing 5 yards behind the receiver who never looked for the pass. But Grossman didn't lose his composure or make a major mistake.

He didn't turn it over. Consider that progress.

"He played better and made better decisions," Smith said. "We didn't turn the ball over. He was accurate with his throws, all of those things that you want a quarterback to do he did tonight."

His accuracy started to show itself with each ensuing possession. He was sharper on two slant passes to Bernard Berrian. On those plays, he spotted where the pressure was coming from, and he knew Berrian was going to be getting single coverage. He made the perfect throw after making the perfect read.

"I went to Bernard early because that's what the coverage dictated," Grossman said. "Be efficient and take care of the football. That's the blueprint that we've set in since training camp."

Finally, Grossman ended the slump when he rifled a quick pass to Berrian, who outraced the overpursuing defense for a 34-yard touchdown to put the Bears ahead 14-13.

His most impressive drive came in the second half. He got into the rhythm of mixing Thomas Jones runs with passes to Muhammad during a 94-yard drive, capped by a 30-yard touchdown run by Jones. His prettiest pass came later on a perfectly lofted fade to Muhammad, who caught the ball over the head of Rams cornerback Fakhir Brown for a 14-yard touchdown.

Turner helped by giving him maximum protection with extra blockers near his goal line to give him time. Grossman got into a rhythm. He was working out of mostly three- and five-step drops although the Bears still mixed in a few seven-step drops for possible long passes.

Before long, Grossman was turning the game into a blowout. Suddenly, the quarterback controversy ended and observers were wondering if a running back controversy was brewing. Thomas Jones got over 1,000 yards for the season, but Cedric Benson got more carries. He had 16 attempts for 64 yards. Jones had 76 yards on 11 carries and the 30-yard TD.

The plan was to get Benson six more carries a game. He got them.

At 11-2, the Bears clinched the NFC North and Grossman settled any debates about his longevity at quarterback.

"Why would I make a quarterback change?" Smith said. "Rex Grossman's our quarterback. He played well. I was more concerned about us stopping them early as opposed to our quarterback play."

The Bears close their season with games against teams with a combined 10-29 record. Chicago is destined to be the NFC's top seed. Grossman survived his drought.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.