LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Chicago Bears quarterback Mike Tomczak understands the psychology of a big game.
"It was like that at Ohio State whenever we played Michigan," he said. "It was the big game for us. Maybe that is why we never played well in the Rose Bowl because the game wasn't as important to us."
Tomczak will start for Chicago in its opener Monday night against the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
"It's one of 16 pivotal games for us," said Tomczak, who won the starting job when Jim McMahon failed to recover in time from a shoulder injury. "Sure, we're excited and we're looking forward to playing them. It's a big game for us but they're all big for us."
But he is well aware of the hype surrounding the confrontation.
"I'm going to be able to tell my grandkids in 50 or 60 years that I played in one of the biggest games in NFL history," Tomczak joked.
Tomczak's standing with the club was tenuous before minicamp. But his off-season conditioning paid off.
"I also learned to get some more self confidence," he said. "I think I have the confidence of the players and this team. I haven't really gotten any advice from Jim but I don't really feel I need any special treatment."
Tomczak was 7-0 as a starter last year when McMahon went down. However, he threw for only two touchdowns with 10 interceptions. He had a low 50.2 rating and completed 74 of 151 for 1,105 yards.
Against the Giants, he faces the second best defense in the league last year.
"I think the key to the game is not to make any turnovers," Tomczak said. "I'm aware of the Giants' strengths. You don't want to turn the ball over to them."
But in the final two exhibition games, the Bears committed numerous turnovers.
"We've got seven days to get ready and stop those things," Tomczak said. "I also realize that I'm only one individual out there. There are 10 other players who will be working out there with me. I can't try to be a hero all by myself."
Coach Mike Ditka and Tomczak have had their share of shouting matches in the past, but Ditka has praised Tomczak most of exhibition season.
"Mike can do the job," Ditka said. "Otherwise, he wouldn't be in there."
Tomczak claims he does not mind the criticism, saying he has always performed well under pressure.
"Maybe it's the Polish blood in me," he said. "They always came back from adversity. I do know this. I want to be a leader of the pack."