Chiefs-Bears Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 30, 2011
The Chicago Bears indicated they still have faith in their No. 2 quarterback despite a difficult performance last week. Their next opponent doesn't appear to feel the same way. While Chicago sticks with Caleb Hanie, the Kansas City Chiefs might start former Bear Kyle Orton over a struggling Tyler Palko on Sunday at Soldier Field. The Bears remain in position for a wild-card berth, but a 25-20 loss in Oakland last Sunday halted a five-game winning streak and left them as one of three NFC teams with a 7-4 record. To build a lead over the other contenders, Chicago could use some better games from Hanie. In his first start for the injured Jay Cutler and first action since last season's NFC title game, Hanie threw three interceptions in the first half but rebounded to go 10 of 18 in the fourth quarter for 175 of his 254 yards. He had two touchdown passes and ran for 50 yards, but also ended Chicago's final drive after being called for intentional grounding because he took a few steps back before spiking the ball. It appears Hanie will remain the starter considering Cutler said Wednesday he might not return this year, plus rookie Nathan Enderle has no NFL pass attempts and fellow Bears backup Josh McCown has none since September 2009. "He'll play better this coming week than he did the last," coach Lovie Smith said of Hanie. "That's normally how you would expect a guy to start off when he hasn't had a lot of time, but once he got going, especially in the second half, he made a lot of plays. You could see him getting more and more comfortable in the pocket and leading our offense." A matchup with the struggling Chiefs (4-7) might help Hanie get even more comfortable. Kansas City's defense is 23rd in the league with 24.1 points allowed per game and has only one interception during the team's current four-game losing streak. The Chiefs offense has been limited to 25 points during that skid, including one touchdown. Kansas City held Pittsburgh to one TD last Sunday night but lost 13-9. Palko, in for the injured Matt Cassel, had three interceptions for the second straight game and fumbled a snap. Chiefs coach Todd Haley indicated Orton, claimed off waivers last week after being cut by Denver, might have a chance to take over. He is expected to share first-team reps in practice this week with Palko, who has yet to throw a TD pass. "We as much as anything else (want to) give Kyle an opportunity to get acclimated into the offense and the only way to do that is to get legitimate reps," Haley said. "In the end, the guy that we feel gives us the best chance to win will always play." Orton spent his first four seasons with the Bears and helped lead them to the playoffs as a rookie in 2005. He was shipped to Denver in the trade for Cutler in April 2009 and was the starter in his two-plus seasons there before being supplanted by Tim Tebow in Week 6 this year. "I don't expect anything but to work hard and learn the offense and try to fill any role that I can," Orton said. "It's just a matter of trying to get to know my teammates and get to know the system as well as I can and help any way that I can." Should he face his former team for the first time, Orton will try to help the Chiefs avoid their first five-game skid since 2009 and keep their faint playoff hopes alive. Kansas City has lost four of five all-time trips to Soldier Field and in its most recent visit in 2007, Devin Hester had a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown as the Bears won 20-10. Hester has returned a punt or kickoff for a TD in three of his last four home games. Another player making an impact for the Bears is Marion Barber, who had a team-best 63 yards on 10 attempts against Oakland. Barber could continue taking some more carries away from Matt Forte, who has averaged 60.0 yards over the last three games after averaging 137.2 in his previous five. "(Barber is) a weapon that we need to use," Smith said. The Bears might get another one to use with cornerback D.J. Moore hoping to return from an injured ankle.
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