Originally written December 04, 2011 on Fox Sports Kansas City:
This particular Chiefs-Bears tussle will not be saved and replayed as an NFL classic. The winning touchdown was a gift, on a "Hail Mary" pass that should have had no chance and a potential equalizer was waved off because a wide-open receiver didn't bother to line up properly. The result, however, remained critical for the Chiefs, who won 10-3 at Soldier Field to snap a four-game losing streak. Ditto for the toothless Bears, who gave up seven sacks, accomplished almost nothing offensively and fell dangerously to 7-5 overall in the NFC wild-card race. "Offensively, we didn't get anything done. It's hard to maintain drives, of course, when you can't convert on third downs," said Bears coach Lovie Smith. "They got too much pressure on us. We did a little bit with the running game, but just never got anything going. I know (quarterback) Caleb Hanie will be blamed for a lot of it, but it's us as an offense." The Bears also lost all-purpose running back Matt Forte, who injured his knee on a hit by Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson in the first quarter, and did not return. Oh, and remember former Bears QB Kyle Orton, who was supposed to make his debut for Kansas City after being claimed from Denver on waivers? Orton replaced the much-maligned Tyler Palko, who had committed seven turnovers in his only two starts, at the start of the second quarter. Typical of a crazy game, though, Orton injured the index finger on his throwing hand when he was whacked by Major Wright after releasing the ball on a failed flea-flicker play. Orton was in obvious pain and did not continue, which handed the game back to Palko. Depending on the severity of the injury, the Chiefs may wind up paying 2.6 million to use the pending free agent Orton for exactly one play. This wrestling match featuring Palko against Bears back-up Hanie essentially was decided on two plays both of which resulted in awful gaffes by the Bears. Chicago had to settle for a 32-yard field goal by Robbie Gould in the second-quarter squandering four points after a touchdown was called back. With the ball on the Chiefs' 4-yard line, running back Marion Barber lined up wide and no one seemed to notice. Hanie quickly flipped what seemed like an easy TD pass but the play was called back because Barber did not set up on the line of scrimmage, leaving the Bears with only six on the line. Chicago's 3-0 lead disappeared in shocking fashion, on the last play of the first half. Palko, who finished 17 for 30 for 156 yards and no turnovers, had engineered a tidy drive, mixing some runs with safe short passes. The Chiefs, though, seemed to stall at the Chicago 38-yard line, just outside kicker Ryan Succop's field goal range -- so Palko skittered around to buy time as the clock ran out. Finally the lefty launched the ball into the end zone, where a posse of Bears seemed to have things under control. Linebacker Brian Urlacher was poised to bat the pass to the ground when teammate Chris Conte, standing behind Urlacher, also leaping to slap at the ball. The result was that Conte "stripped" Urlacher and the ball zipped straight to an unsuspecting McCluster, who cradled it to his chest despite a mass of humanity falling on him. "I'm the guy that's looking for any tipped balls. I have to catch it," McCluster said. "It worked out perfectly. He tipped it right to me and I caught it and wanted to hold on to it." "To be honest, once I saw how he was going to hit the ball down, I knew it was coming right to me. So, I just prepared myself for it. It fell right in my lap." More irony: McCluster basically was used only as a runner most of the day, dashing away for 61 yards on 9 carries. But he was in the perfect place amid the chaos in the end zone, and suddenly the Chiefs had a 7-3 lead and an inspired defense made that lead stand up all the way. The Chiefs held the Bears to 181 yards of total offense, and chased Hanie all over Soldier Field intercepting him twice in addition to all the physical pressure. Rookie linebacker Justin Houston registered three of Kansas City's seven sacks, and Hanie rarely had time to throw in comfort. After Succop hit a 21-yard field goal early in the third to make it 10-3, however, Hanie had a legitimate chance to tie the game. Starting a drive from the Chicago 41 with 6:31 left in the fourth quarter, Hanie caught fire and completed four straight throws, zipping the Bears to the Chiefs 13-yard line. Hanie's next throw seemed to find Roy Williams just outside the end zone, but Williams was sandwiched by a couple of Chiefs and lost the ball, which was tipped twice and then caught cleanly in the end zone by safety Jon McGraw. "I saw him throw it and my eyes went to the receiver -- and then I saw a whole bunch of guys," McGraw said. "Then it squirted through and I got it just in time before it hit the ground. It was going to the ground fast, but fortunately I was able to make the play" That turned out to be the Bears' last shot, as the Chiefs took no chances, banging the ball on the ground to wind out the clock. "The second half was a gritty, slug-it-out half," said Chiefs coach Todd Haley. "We knew what it was going to be about. We moved the ball enough to get to 10 points, and that was critical for us, to get at least a touchdown ahead. We did what we had to for a win." The Chiefs' victory bumped their record to 5-7, and kept them barely breathing in the AFC West race two games behind Oakland and Denver.
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