- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2006

The Chicago Bears can make their plans for the playoffs.

The Bears, who at 4-0 are the only unbeaten team in the conference, hold a two-game lead in the NFC North and already defeated their chief division rival, the Vikings, on the road.

They routed defending conference champion Seattle 37-6 — the Seahawks played without last year’s league MVP, injured running back Shaun Alexander — and outscored the Packers, Lions, Vikings and Seahawks by a staggering 116-29.

Quarterback Rex Grossman, who has started four straight games for the first time in his four-year career, threw eight touchdown passes against only three interceptions in those games, posting an impressive 100.8 passer rating.

Defensive tackle Tommie Harris, the team’s first-round pick in 2004, joins perennial Pro Bowl middle linebacker Brian Urlacher as leaders of a fearsome front seven for defensive-minded coach Lovie Smith.

Against the Vikings, Harris forced a fumble by Chester Taylor that set up the Bears’ game-winning touchdown.

“Tommie beat [Vikings guard Steve] Hutchinson like a drum,” defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said. “He’s arguably the best defensive tackle in the league. He’s going to be one of the best ever in Chicago.”

That also can be said of the Bears’ passing game. Only four quarterbacks in the history of the storied franchise passed for at least 3,000 yards in a season, the last of them in 1997.

Grossman, with the air attack operating at a high level rare for the club, is on course to easily surpass that mark.

“It’s kind of nice not to hear about the defense all the time and ‘what’s the offense going to do?’” said receiver Bernard Berrian, who leads the NFL with 21.1 yards a catch.

The Bears won the division last year but lost their playoff opener at home to the Panthers, and they haven’t won a postseason game since the wild-card round in 1994.

Only the Cardinals, Bengals, Lions and Chiefs have waited longer for a playoff victory. This should be the Bears’ best chance since to end that streak.

Leader board — Ben Quigley, Paul Goydos, Trevor Immelman and Olin Browne all led either a recent U.S. Open or PGA Championship after the first round.

Some of the names atop the NFL stats a quarter of the way through the season are just as surprising:

Texans quarterback David Carr, who held a career passer rating of 73.7 before this season, leads the league with a 108.9 mark.

Bears kicker Robbie Gould is 13-for-13 on field-goal attempts and 11-for-11 on extra-point tries for an NFL-best 50 points.

The Eagles’ Dexter Wynn, who averaged just 7.6 yards on punt returns the past two seasons, has nearly doubled that to 14.0 to top the NFC.

Wynn teammate Trent Cole, who recorded five sacks as a rookie in 2005, already has equaled that total. He shares the league lead with the Ravens’ Bart Scott, who had four sacks in his first three years combined.

T.O.’s coming — Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb is ready for Sunday’s long-anticipated showdown with his former receiver and friend, Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens.

In fact, McNabb says he sent Owens a text message after T.O.’s hospitalization last week after what Owens said was an accidental overdose.

“I never would wish that on anyone,” McNabb said. “I just sent prayers his way and blessings his way. I’m a human being and what happened last year, that’s over. I’ve moved on, and I just wanted to send the message that whatever had happened with that whole deal last week, if he needed somebody to talk to, to call. I didn’t get a response, not that I was looking for a response. If he read it or received it, I think he would know.”

Asked what will happen if he and Owens cross paths on Sunday, McNabb said, “I don’t know. If we shake hands, high-five, chest bump, whatever, you guys will talk about that. And if we don’t talk, then I’m sure you guys will talk about that as well. Teams that will be playing at 1 [p.m.], I’m sure they’ll find a way to try to get to a TV to see what happened and what you guys are talking about, if we got a hug before the game or see what each other’s doing.”

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