King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Rex corrects, but all's not right with him or the Bears. Plus: America's new team. And: NBA's new old ball.

By Salon Staff
Published December 12, 2006 5:00PM (EST)

I can't think who it was, but somebody wrote on Monday, "People will be feeling a lot better about Rex Grossman and Co. if they put a beating on the Rams Monday night. They probably will do that, and people probably shouldn't feel much better because of it."

They did do that, to the tune of 42-27, and people seem to be feeling a lot better about Grossman and the Chicago Bears, who had been looking a little shaky even while clinching the NFC North.

A sample headline: "Bears, Rex have answers for every question imaginable."

Oh really, State Journal-Register of Springfield, Ill.? How about for this one: How does the defense that's supposed to take this team to the Super Bowl as long as the offense is not horrible give up back-to-back 99- and 72-yard touchdown drives with the game still undecided?

And 27 points, without turning the ball over once, to, according to Football Outsiders' metrics, the 13th best offense in the league? The Rams are 14th in scoring even after putting up those 27 Monday.

Here's another one from the Journal-Register that tells the story a little better: "Rams cure what ails Grossman."

Grossman was "efficient and decisive," to use his own words, and did have a fine game. It came against one of the worst defenses in the league, but those games count too. I think Grossman is and will be a perfectly capable NFL quarterback, and maybe he did just need a good game against a softy to break out of his funk.

I'm feeling better about him than I was Monday morning, but I'm not ready to say all's well under center in Chicago. You can put your helmet down, Brian Griese, but don't wander too far from it just yet. I guess I'm with this headline in the suburban Chicago Daily Herald: "Grossman not so bad in win."

And I'm wondering if that banged-up Bears defense is enough to take the Bears, to use Barack Obama's words, "all the way, baby," even if Grossman plays well for the rest of the season.

The Rams put together two fourth-quarter touchdown drives after the game was decided, and the Bears did shut them down in the third quarter, allowing Chicago to take control of the game. But that first half was worrisome. The Rams racked up 226 yards and 12 first downs, Marc Bulger averaged more than eight yards per throw and Steven Jackson averaged 4.9 yards on 13 carries. On the night, the Rams got to the red zone four times and scored four touchdowns.

The story of the game, ignoring the context that made Grossman the story of the night, was Devin Hester's two kickoff-return touchdowns. Without those, it's a very different, very close ballgame.

The Bears clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs Monday night, and they'll finish the season with lollipops vs. Tampa Bay, at Detroit and vs. Green Bay. Grossman may or may not play well down the stretch, but he won't be tested, and neither will the defense.

When the Bears play their first playoff game Jan. 13 or 14, it will have been six or seven weeks since they last played a playoff team, depending on whether Minnesota sneaks in. Chicago will enter the postseason as the best team in the conference, but something tells me they'll be ripe for the picking.

A few more headlines, for the hell of it:

"Rex back on top after weeks of agony" (
"Grossman brings his 'A' game" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
"Grossman zeroed in" (Chicago Tribune)
"A glimpse of that old Grossman" (Chicago Tribune)

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My team, right or wrong [PERMALINK]

A story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune Sunday advancing that night's Saints-Dallas game suggested that the resurgent Saints were challenging the Cowboys for the mythical mantle of "America's Team."

A combination of the team's surprising record, charismatic stars such as Reggie Bush and Drew Brees, and the feel-good story of the club as a symbol of New Orleans' effort to recover from Hurricane Katrina has led to increased merchandise sales and a surge in popularity for the Saints beyond the South and the Katrina diaspora, the article, by Jeff Duncan, asserts.

Fine. I believe all of that, and while I'll bet on the Cowboys to retain their national popularity long term, I think there's more interest in the Saints this year, especially after they handed the Cowboys their hats on Sunday night and took the inside track to a first-round bye and a second-round home game in the playoffs.

So if the Saints are America's Team, even temporarily, that means they're my team. I'll take that, because the teams I normally consider mine, the Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams, are a combined 7-19, and deservedly so.

This being a democracy and everything, I think I should have a say in how America's Team, my team, is run. Therefore, in the wake of Sunday night's national TV win, here is my agenda for America's Team.

1. Don't wear all-black uniforms anymore. You look like a high school team. I know other teams do it too. Jacksonville does it. If Jacksonville lost twice to Houston, would you lose twice to Houston? Anyway, the Jaguars look like a high school team when they do it too.

2. If you absolutely, positively have to wear all black -- and let me reiterate that you don't and shouldn't -- don't wear white socks. I wouldn't have thought the all-black look could be made to look worse, but, hey, you did it.

3. That is all.

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The new ball: Wrong [PERMALINK]

NBA commissioner David Stern has corrected one of the worst mistakes of his mostly successful tenure, announcing unilaterally that his unilateral decision to introduce a synthetic basketball has been unilaterally reversed. The old leather ball returns to the NBA on Jan. 1.

Good. Now I wish Salon's editors would do the same and let me go back to typing my column on a computer. This voice recognition software is wonderful.

Hey, I said terrible, not wonderful. That's better. See?

The software keeps screwing up my NFL picks, capitalizing the wrong team. I'd be in first place in the Panel o' Experts if this software wasn't so great.

Hey, I didn't say great!

Previous column: NFL handicap

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