OAKLAND -- It was awful. Just awful.
Anyone who had devoted almost three hours of his existence to this particular football game Sunday figured it was time to make funeral arrangements for the Chicago Bears' dead offense. There had been nothing even approaching a near-life experience.
The Raiders had taken a 6-3 lead on a 52-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter, and there really was no good reason to expect a peep out of the Bears.
And then the oddest thing happened. A football was lofted in the air. It traveled far, and it traveled straight and true. It was unlike anything that had been seen from a Chicago offense in many a day.
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That pass, from the unlikeliest of arms, the most abused of arms, found its way into the hands of Bernard Berrian (Atwater High). And the 59-yard touchdown pass from the much-maligned quarterback won a football game that had appeared to be as lost as Atlantis.
The quarterback, Rex Grossman, looked not just like a kid in a candy store but like a kid who had barricaded himself in the candy store and was enjoying the sugar buzz of his life. He jumped into teammates' arms and was swallowed up.
"You couldn't write that story any better," center Olin Kreutz said after the 17-6 victory. "He's got to take all that criticism and then pretty much come in and basically win the game for us."
That he did. Some of us had buried Grossman for good, filled in the hole and smoothed the dirt. We had called for his benching and got it after he threw three interceptions against the Cowboys in Week 3.
Brian Griese hasn't been a whole lot better, but he wasn't Grossman and that had struck many of us as good enough.
But then Sunday rolled around. It was a rough-and-tumble day.
Skirmishes periodically broke out on the field. The Raiders couldn't move the ball against the Bears' defense. The Bears couldn't run the ball against a very bad Oakland defense. There really isn't a way to overstate the ineptitude on display. The Bears looked like they had adopted the Washington Generals' mission statement.
Griese went down with a shoulder injury right before halftime.
Grossman came in and proceeded to fumble his first snap under center in seven weeks. Right, we said. That's about right.
But the Grossman we thought we knew so well hung in there and didn't make any huge mistakes. And then that beautiful, parabolic pass to Berrian, who had beaten Chris Carr in a way no cornerback should be beaten. Touchdown.
"It was unbelievable, something you can't describe to anyone who's never been in that position," Grossman said.
That rules out just about everybody on the planet. How many people have gone to the Super Bowl as a much-maligned starting quarterback, lost the job the next season and then won a game in relief of an injured teammate?
"I hope people appreciate that he never quit on the team," Kreutz said. "He prepared every day, even after getting demoted, and that's a hard thing to do."
This would have been a perfect opportunity for Grossman to gloat. But when a reporter asked whether he had given any thought to saying "I told you so," he said no. As if the question made him recall all the abuse he has had to absorb, he suddenly went cold in the post-game interview.
That's OK. He deserved his moment. And he deserved to feel like he had just extracted some measure of revenge from the nasty media.
As bad as he has played at times, this was a time to bask in the glow of something good. And his teammates felt the collateral warmth.
"I'm proud of Rex," linebacker Lance Briggs said. "He did his thing."
At least one thing became crystal clear Sunday: The Bears don't throw deep as much with Griese under center. That was the deal with the quarterback switch. Griese: shorter passes, fewer mistakes. Grossman: a higher risk-reward ratio.
"You aren't going to catch the ball if the ball's not in the air," said Muhsin Muhammad, who had a 33-yard catch.
But as we feel good for the hard-luck Grossman, let's not fail to remember all the poor quarterbacking he has done in more than a few games over the past two seasons. This doesn't erase that. Not does it make it any less likely he'll revert to Bad Rex form if he remains in the starting lineup.
But enough of all that for now.
The extent of Griese's injury wasn't known Sunday night, or at least the news wasn't relayed to the media if it were known. A quarterback controversy? "Why don't you let us enjoy the game?" Lovie Smith said, when asked who might be his quarterback next week in Seattle.
And let a quarterback enjoy making the most of an opportunity. His teammates certainly did.
"You earn your respect slowly in the NFL," Kreutz said, "and he's earned it."