5:00 PM ET, December 25, 2005
Chicago (10-4) at Green Bay (3-11) Sunday 5:00 pm EST
Grossman makes his first start of the season Sunday when the Bears visit the Green Bay Packers in a battle of division rivals.
The Bears can clinch their first division crown since winning the NFC Central in 2001 with a victory here or if Minnesota loses at Baltimore later Sunday. Chicago also can clinch a playoff bye with a win and losses by the New York Giants and Carolina, who both play on Saturday.
Smith, who has the NFL's top-ranked defense led by middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, made the quarterback switch at halftime of last week's 16-3 win over Atlanta, benching rookie Kyle Orton in favor of Grossman. Orton's 59.9 rating is the lowest in the NFL among starting quarterbacks.
Grossman would've been the starter heading into the season but fractured his left ankle in the second preseason game. The 2003 first-round pick also was limited to three games last season due to a knee injury.
"Getting a chance to play, it's one of those things that is extremely gratifying," Grossman said. "It's an opportunity I'm definitely going to take advantage of because of what I've been through. I've got a little bit more respect for the position I'm in."
Grossman completed 9-of-16 passes for 93 yards with an interception after replacing Orton last week.
"He was our starter before he went down and we have a lot of faith in him. We think he gives us our best chance to win," Smith said. "We needed to get the offense kick-started a little bit. Rex has come from a lot to go down like he did early in the preseason. We really liked the energy he brought to our football team when we brought him in."
While the offense is changing, the Bears still have their dominating defense that is allowing just 10.8 points per game.
The new "Monsters of the Midway" forced Brett Favre into four turnovers and sacked him twice. But the biggest defensive plays were made by Tillman and Vasher.
With Green Bay holding a 7-6 lead and in the red zone late in the first half, Favre was intercepted in the end zone by Tillman, who followed a phalanx of blockers up the right sideline. He was finally brought down at the Green Bay 7 after a 95-yard return, and the Bears didn't bother running a play, letting Gould kick a 25-yard field goal with six seconds left.
Vasher sealed the victory with a 45-yard return for a touchdown with 3:06 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Favre had long been a nemesis of the Bears. The three-time Most Valuable Player still is 21-6 in his career against Chicago, throwing for 6,413 yards and 51 touchdowns with 27 interceptions.
In the first meeting, Favre completed 31-of-58 passes for 277 yards.
Last Monday, Favre endured the worst loss of his illustrious career as the Packers were beaten, 48-3, at Baltimore. He went just 14-of-29 for 144 yards with two interceptions.
Favre now will have to make due without running back Samkon Gado, who will miss the last two games with a sprained MCL in his right knee. The undrafted rookie out of Liberty had been a bright spot with three 100-yard games.
Series: The Bears lead, 86-78-6, but the Packers have won 19 of the last 23 meetings.
Next week: Chicago visits Minnesota, January 1 Green Bay hosts Seattle, January 1
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There will be some questions answered in this game. Will the Packers let QB Aaron Rodgers play a meaningful role? Is this the changing of the guard at quarterback for the Packers? Is Rex Grossman the answer for the Bears as they head to the playoffs? These questions and more will be answered on Sunday.
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|Avg Points Allowed||11.2||21.8|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||CHI|
|Rush Yds Allowed||CHI|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Green Bay leads 7-3|
|Dec 4, 2005||CHI 19, GB 7|
|Jan 2, 2005||CHI 14, GB 31|
|Sep 19, 2004||CHI 21, @GB 10|
|Dec 7, 2003||CHI 21, @GB 34|
|Sep 29, 2003||CHI 23, GB 38|
|Dec 1, 2002||CHI 20, @GB 30|
|Oct 7, 2002||CHI 21, GB 34|
|Dec 9, 2001||CHI 7, @GB 17|
|Nov 11, 2001||CHI 12, GB 20|