CHICAGO (MCT) - I wouldn't necessarily call the last contest between the Bears and Dallas Cowboys the worst NFL game ever played.

But it would make my personal Bottom 10.

It took place Nov. 25, 2004, a Thanksgiving Day game so maddeningly awful I'm surprised it didn't make John Madden lose his appetite for his Turducken.

The quality of the quarterbacking was such that a fed-up Lovie Smith gave a cold stare to a reporter after a 21-7 defeat and asked, "Can you play quarterback?"

Neither side's was any good. Craig Krenzel, Jonathan Quinn, Drew Henson and 41-year-old Vinny Testaverde were the quarterbacks the Bears and Cowboys trotted out for that turkey. Their arms were as useless as the Venus de Milo's.

There were 19 punts. I have seen spelling bees with more action. Fans in the Texas Stadium stands were so bored, it felt like a Rangers baseball game.

The only score for the Bears - here's a shock - came from the defense. The (cough) offense accumulated 91 yards passing and 41 rushing. The Dallas defense caused four fumbles. It sacked the Bears' quarterbacks six times.

Bill Parcells took abuse for benching Henson at halftime and bringing in the long-in-the-tooth Testaverde. But later the Cowboys coach defended himself by saying, "People were booing but I don't care. I have to do what I think is best for the team."

Smith felt likewise. That is why the Bears practically decided on the spot to promote Hangin' Chad Hutchinson to No. 1 quarterback and to squirt oil on Jeff George's limbs like the Tin Man and have him join the team.

And you think the Bears have a quarterback crisis now?

If this feels like ancient history, it is because the Bears and Cowboys will come marching into Soldier Field for Sunday night's game expecting to provide a national TV audience with considerably more entertainment.

After the last time they met, each team left with a sorry record of 4-7.

This time, a case could be made that these are the NFC's two strongest teams.

Last time, the Cowboys were so hard up at quarterback that they gave one (Henson) his first NFL start and then gave up on him halfway through the game to go with a graybeard (Testaverde) born in 1963.

This time, Tony Romo is so locked and loaded that, well, as Madden recently put it, "He's doing everything darn-near perfectly."

Romo apparently is a star. I hear he dates country music singer Carrie Underwood, who has given us such great hits as . . . as . . . well, I can't name any Carrie Underwood songs. I do know Faith Hill's and Reba McEntire's. Did he date them?

A lot of Bears fans openly envy those lucky Cowpokes for having a solid, stable, dependable, consistent quarterback, unlike that mistake-making, confidence-shaking one of theirs.

I'm sure these people must be right. But just for fun and for the record, permit me to point out this:

The magnificent Tony Romo, age 27, in that spectacular, next-stop-Canton career of his, has completed 249 passes for 3,434 yards and 25 touchdowns.

Whereas that poor wretch Rex Grossman, also 27, in his miserable, send-him-to-Canada career, has completed 399 passes for 4,801 yards and 28 TDs.

Oh, and this Grossman guy also has won 16 of his last 21 games. And he took his team to a conference championship and a Super Bowl, unlike a certain snap-dropping quarterback out of Dallas.

But who cares about all those games the Bears have won with Grossman calling the signals? After all, he is no Tony Romo, who is obviously Roger Staubach, Dan Marino and Joe Montana rolled into one.

Speculation galore says that if Grossman can't cut the mustard, he will have to be replaced soon. It could be a few weeks from now. Could be at halftime Sunday night. Could be a few bars into Faith Hill's pregame number.

Most of this guesswork is unsubstantiated. Nowadays, though, rather than even wait for the Bears' head coach to ask a stranger "Can you play quarterback?" our amateur armchair analysts and Monday morning quarterbacks of Greater Chicagoland have developed a new skill-reading Lovie's mind.

Let's see, if he doesn't actually mouth these words, "Rex is our quarterback," then it must mean that Rex is not his quarterback, or at least that Rex pretty soon might not be his quarterback, or that maybe Rex might be his cornerback or nickel back, I don't know.

Smith better keep his clipboard in front of his lips at all times. Otherwise at some point in this Dallas game, he might mutter something like, "Let's get the ball back," which will be interpreted immediately by our trusty mind-readers as: "Rex is not my quarterback."

A great many Bears fans and Chicago media still act as if it's 2004 and their team can't do anything right.

I have heard a great deal of talk this week, for example, about how strong the Cowboys are, even though this is an organization that since 2000 has won 75 of its last 162 games.

And what have the Bears won lately? Not much. If they only had Tony Romo!

"Romo gives Dallas a huge quarterback edge over Bears in major matchup," a headline in USA Today read this week.

Boy, I guess this one should be over by halftime.

(c) 2007, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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