Bears confident Hanie will bounce back
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP)
Lovie Smith and the Chicago Bears said all the right things after Jay Cutler went down with a broken right thumb. They expressed confidence in Caleb Hanie, and the backup quarterback boldly proclaimed he had been waiting for this opportunity.
One day after a shaky trip to the Black Hole, that faith in Hanie was still there.
''He'll play better this coming week than he did the last,'' Smith said Monday.
Smith and the Bears probably would be happy if Hanie just played like he did in the second half of his first career start.
The fourth-year quarterback threw three interceptions before halftime in Sunday's 25-20 loss at Oakland, including a terrible throw deep in Raiders territory that was returned by Kamerion Wimbley to the Chicago 12 late in the second quarter. That led to one of Sebastian Janikowski's team-record six field goals and a 12-7 lead for Oakland.
''We all know that swing there at the end of the half, you take that away, it's a different ballgame,'' Smith said.
Hanie played much better in the second half, using his strong arm to give the Bears a chance to win. He connected with Johnny Knox for an 81-yard play that set up Kellen Davis' 9-yard touchdown reception with 2:11 remaining.
The Bears got the ball back one more time, but Hanie's inexperience cost them a long-range shot at the winning score. They had the ball at their 46 when Hanie flubbed a spike play with 4 seconds left, leading to a game-ending intentional grounding call.
''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,'' Smith said. ''You could see him getting more and more comfortable in the pocket and leading our offense.''
Hanie completed 18 of 36 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns in his first meaningful appearance since he almost engineered a surprising comeback in last season's NFC championship. He also showed off his athletic ability with five carries for 50 yards.
Hanie, who wasn't made available to the media on Monday, had thrown only 14 regular-season passes since signing as an undrafted free agent in 2008.
''We have a lot of faith in Caleb to get the job done,'' kicker Robbie Gould said. ''Maybe yesterday was just an opportunity for him to get his feet wet a little bit.''
While Hanie's shaky effort hurt the Bears, there was plenty of blame to go around. The defense forced 15 turnovers during Chicago's five-game winning streak, but managed just one against Carson Palmer and the Raiders. Janikowski and punter Shane Lechler neutralized the Bears' strong return units for much of the day and tilted the field position battle in Oakland's favor.
''Anytime you lose the turnover ratio, chances are you're going to lose,'' cornerback Charles Tillman said. ''I mean it's a proven stat.''
The Bears (7-4) still control their destiny in the wild-card race and are headed into an easier stretch of the schedule. They host Kansas City (4-7) this Sunday and Seattle (4-7) on Dec. 18. Their remaining road games include Tim Tebow and surprising Denver (6-5), unbeaten Green Bay (11-0) and Minnesota (2-9) in the regular-season finale.
First up are the Chiefs, who could turn to former Bears quarterback Kyle Orton after Tyler Palko struggled again in Sunday night's 13-9 loss to Pittsburgh. Orton was cut by Denver last Tuesday and Kansas City claimed him before Chicago could grab him off the waiver wire.
''Kyle was liked here, at least by teammates he was,'' Tillman said. ''It would be nice to go against him but there's no animosity, there's no extra motivation or anything like that.''
Notes: Smith said CB D.J. Moore (ankle) is improving and he hopes he will be available this week. ... Gould kicked two field goals in the fourth quarter, connecting from 50 and 53 yards, but he was amazed by Janikowski's performance. ''That's by far the best one I've ever seen in person,'' Gould said.