Mike Nadel: Cedric's not soft but Rex fails to stand tall

Mike Nadel

Cedric Benson convinced us: He's about as soft as a sledgehammer. As for Rex Grossman being a mental midget - as one former Bears assistant coach allegedly claimed - well, let's just say the NFL arm of Mensa won't be reaching out to Rex anytime soon.

If Sunday was as much about Ced and Rex getting good grades in the face of intense scrutiny as it was about the Bears beating the Kansas City Chiefs, Benson would have received a solid B-plus while the best we can offer Grossman is "incomplete."

Which, come to think of it, also describes far too many of Rex's passes.

Given that the Bears won 20-10, let's hold off on Grossman and start with happier news: Benson answered the Chargers' claims that he is soft by leaving cleat marks all over the Chiefs. He gained many of his 101 yards after having absorbed one, two or even three hits.

"I think today could have sent a statement, yes," he said. "Personally, I put a lot on myself just to do better. I think I did a good job."

Several readers have e-mailed recently wondering why Adrian Peterson doesn't start at tailback. They saw the answer Sunday. Yes, Peterson is shiftier, but the far stronger Benson fits the Bears' power-running attack. And Peterson, who is

supposed to be the better pass-blocker, whiffed on a blitz to nearly get Grossman killed.

There's a reason a guy in his sixth NFL season never has been a starter, folks. NFL scouts, coaches and GMs are pretty smart. If Peterson were that good, he'd be starting for somebody.

Frankly, I never would have used "soft" to describe Benson. Sportswriters' bellies, perhaps, but not Cedric. My questions concerning Benson have more to do with his speed - it isn't great, and even he wonders why offensive coordinator Ron Turner called so many outside-the-tackle tosses for him - and his desire. He seemed to answer the second part of that equation Sunday; maybe the Bears need an opponent to insult him every week.

Cedric wasn't the only standout Bear in this one. The defense had a typically strong performance, with Peanut Tillman and Lance Briggs seemingly in on every play. The offensive line repeatedly opened holes for Benson, who declared: "As long as the guys block like they did today, 100 yards every week. Guaranteed."

 And then there's Devin Hester.

Chiefs coach Herm Edwards must have slept through the Bears-Chargers game film, because, unlike their San Diego counterparts, the Kansas City punter and kicker were allowed to keep booting the ball to one of the great return men in football history. Hester, predictably, made Edwards' team pay with a series of spectacular runbacks, including a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown.

 Memo to future Chicago opponents: If you dare Devin Hester to beat you, he will.

"He cuts and moves at full speed and just runs with so much confidence, like he's just playing tag out there and messing with them," Grossman said. "He's unbelievable."

Equally unbelievable - and here's where Mr. Nice becomes Mr. Nasty, if you want to cover your eyes - is Grossman's continued tendency to throw stupid passes.

Though he denies it, Chargers assistant coach Ron Rivera supposedly coined the "mental midget" label for Grossman.

Hogwash, right? Well, the inferior Chiefs only could win Sunday if the Bears let them. And there Grossman was, keeping K.C. in the game by throwing two dopey second-half interceptions.

The first came when he didn't see Napoleon Harris closing in on the intended receiver over the middle. As even Grossman acknowledged, a good quarterback would have seen the linebacker.

The second came when Rex tried to lob a screen pass between a bevy of behemoths and into the hands of 5-foot-7 rookie Garrett Wolfe.

Is it politically incorrect to suggest that only a mental midget would try to throw an impossible pass to an actual midget?

Grossman is 27 years old. He's in his fifth season in the league. This is his second full year with the same group around him running the same system. It no longer is acceptable for him to follow a good half with a rotten one or for him to make the kind of mistakes one associates with a rookie.

 Mental midget? Those are mighty harsh words.

 Only Rex Grossman can prove they aren't true.

Mike Nadel (mikenadel@sbcglobal.net) is the Chicago sports columnist for GateHouse News Service. Read his blog, The Baldest Truth, at www.thebaldesttruth.com.