Smith Won't Commit to Orton

The Chicago Bears have nothing left to play for this season and should continue to start Kyle Orton at quarterback the rest of the way, but Lovie Smith refused to make that commitment Tuesday at Halas Hall. Smith's cat-and-mouse game with the media continues, although nobody quite understands why.

Kyle Orton, making his first start – and taking his first snap in a regular-season game in two years – finally shook off the rust late in Monday night's loss to the Vikings, but it wasn't enough to make up for a mostly ineffective performance in a 20-13 loss.

Orton completed four of five passes for 38 yards, but the drive stalled at the Vikings' 39 when he was called for intentional grounding on a 3rd-and-9 play, which was typical of an offensive performance by him and the offense as a whole that was too conservative and too inconsistent.

The third quarterback wasn't a charm for the Bears, as Orton struggled to complete anything other than short flips to running back Adrian Peterson, who caught seven of his first 13 completions but for only 33 yards.

Orton completed 22 of 38 passes for 184 yards, and although offensive coordinator Ron Turner said immediately after the game that he would remain the Bears' starter, head coach Lovie Smith hedged on that Tuesday afternoon.

"We're deciding on all of our positions on who's going to start," Smith said when asked specifically about Orton starting Sunday against the Packers. "But some of the positive things that Kyle did ... for his first game to play, it's a tough environment [at the Metrodome]. I thought he made a lot of good decisions as far as checking the ball down. We didn't have a lot of turnovers, and in a situation like that you want to play just good steady ball and not lose the game making some bad plays. Kyle missed some passes we would like to have back, but I thought for the most part he played and we played as an offense as a whole OK but not good enough to win."

Orton's only interception came on his final play, a desperation heave into the end zone that was stolen by Darren Sharper with 1:38 remaining.


QB Kyle Orton
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

"I didn't throw it far enough," said Orton, who finished with a 59.5 passer rating and declined to cite any positives in his return. "We lost the game, so I don't think there are any positives. I felt comfortable. We just didn't make enough plays, and I put that on me."

Nevertheless, Orton's performance seemed to be more than enough to earn the final two starts based on Turner's and Smith's postgame comments.

"He showed great poise in a hostile environment," Turner said. "We as a team didn't give him an opportunity to have success."

Smith also seemed satisfied.

"I thought he did a decent job up until that last pass," he said.

Conventional wisdom says Orton will be under center when the Packers come to Soldier Field. Smith's wishy-washy endorsement Tuesday is more than likely the latest ploy in the silly gamesmanship that the entire organization has grown fond of this season. Backup Brian Griese has shown that he's exactly that – a decent backup. And Rex Grossman is not capable of playing with a sprained MCL, even though the Bears will probably continue to list him as "doubtful" or maybe even "questionable," another one of the tactics they use to – supposedly – keep opponents guessing.

As if it matters to the Packers who the Bears start at quarterback.

News & Notes

  • CB Nathan Vasher returned after missing 10 games with a partially torn groin muscle. Last week, Vasher said it would take "a miracle" for him to play and characterized his chances of being active as "slim to none." Although he didn't start because the Bears opened with three safeties, Vasher played most of the game. Asked about his comments from last week, Vasher just grinned and said, "Anyone want to play poker?"
  • OT John St. Clair started at left guard in place of Terrence Metcalf, who started the previous five games after the season-ending shoulder injury to Ruben Brown. It was the first-ever NFL start at guard for St. Clair, an eight-year veteran who has started at both tackle spots in the past. "We felt St. Clair gave us a better chance to win," said offensive coordinator Ron Turner, in what was more an indictment of Metcalf's mediocre play than St. Clair's versatility.
  • MLB Brian Urlacher had two sacks, an interception and a recovered fumble to go along with nine tackles.
  • RB Adrian Peterson caught a career-best eight passes but for only 51 yards, although that was significantly more productive than his nine rushing attempts, which netted 26 yards.
  • DT Matt Toeaina, who was signed a week ago, had two tackles for negative yardage vs. the Vikings, both against Adrian Peterson.

  • Could Cedric Benson's reign in the backfield be over?
  • Same problems on offense despite coordinator carousel
  • A look back at the Fog Bowl against Buddy Ryan's Eagles
  • Remembering legendary Hall-of-Famer George Musso
  • Getting to know rookie cornerback Corey Graham
  • All of that plus much more in the February issue of ...

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