According to offensive coordinator Ron Turner, new starting quarterback Kyle Orton will have the run of the playbook this time around, unlike in 2005 when the game plan was scaled back and the rookie was asked only to manage games and avoid negative plays that would lose them.
"We just go out and run our offense and play," Turner said. "We won't think twice about, 'Well, we want to call this, [but] we can't.' Maybe during his rookie year we did do that. We wanted to do this [but thought] 'Well, let's not put him in that situation.' Right now, if we think it's good and we want to call it, we're going to call it."
Orton's performance in the class room, on the practice field and in the film room during his two years away from the playing field has given Turner the confidence to allow the 6-4, 217-pounder more latitude in the late-season audition that could determine his future status with the Bears – or if he has a future here. Head coach Lovie Smith hasn't made any guarantees for the remainder of the season, but Orton is expected to start all three games.
Turner knows Orton is a smarter quarterback, even though he doesn't have any more game experience after two years of inactivity.
"I sat in every quarterback meeting with him for the last two years," Turner said. "He has prepared every week like he is the starter, which is hard to do because he was obviously frustrated – and he's made that known. To go from being a starter and winning 10 games as a rookie to being No. 3 and not playing, you're going to be frustrated. But he's handled it extremely well."
QB Kyle Orton
Jeff Roberson/AP Images
It won't be easy for Orton with a running game that has been weak all season. The Bears will let Orton crank it up more than in 2005, when he threw more than 30 passes in just three of his 15 starts. This year has been a different story. Prior to Week 15, the Bears had thrown 33 or more passes in 10 of 13 games. That would seem to play to Orton's strength. In three years as Purdue's starter, he threw for 9,337 yards and 63 touchdowns – third best in school history.
"Kyle has a very strong arm," Turner said. "The ball is going to get on [the receivers] quick when it leaves his hand. His release isn't quite as quick as some of the other guys, but I think he makes up for it in the velocity of his throw. The timing factor comes out a little different."
That's something Orton had to work overtime on last week, since he had spent the past two years running the scout team – imitating each week's opponent while throwing to non-starters.
The trick now is to see if Orton can show consistency as a starter over the last two games of the season.
News & NotesWR Bernard Berrian will finish the season with 79 catches for 1,087 yards at his current pace. He had team bests of 64 catches, 883 yards and four touchdowns going into the Monday night game.
RB Adrian Peterson had not averaged more than 3.0 yards per carry in any of the five games prior to Monday night's game.
WR Muhsin Muhammad has not had a 100-yard receiving day since Nov. 12, 2006.
DT Darwin Walker, who signed a five-year, $25 million contract after he was acquired in a trade during training camp, has one sack and nine solo tackles.
LB Lance Briggs has had fewer than 10 tackles in four of the last five games, averaging just under eight hits per game. In the four previous games, he averaged 13 tackles per game.
Is Devin Hester already the greatest return man ever?
An interview with running backs coach Tim Spencer
Ed "The Claw" Sprinkle: The Oldest Living Bear
A look at the autobiography Sayers: My Life and Times
Getting to know third-year quarterback Kyle Orton
All of that plus much more in the January issue of ...
BEAR REPORT, the only publication exclusively dedicated to your Chicago Bears ... CLICK HERE to subscribe today