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Bears Tue Nov 29 2011

Uneven Debut for Bears Backup QB

Thumbnail image for bears.gifThe Raiders won because of a commitment to excellence on special teams, and the Bears' new quarterback, Caleb Hanie, couldn't spike the ball correctly.

It was an odd Sunday afternoon in Oakland.

The Raiders won 25-20, ending the Bears' five-game win streak and dropping them to 7-4. The atypical score was due to the bionic left foot of Sebastian Janikowski, who put 19 points on the board (six field goals, one extra point), and the bionic right foot of Shane Lechler, who boomed one punt 80 yards and downed three others inside the 20.

As for Chicago, Hanie looked a bit rusty and inexperienced in his first career start, filling in for the injured Jay Cutler. He overthrew some receivers, and made a bad cross-field throw that was intercepted. That pass killed a drive before the half and led to three points for Oakland.

The craziest play in this game was the last one of the game: the Bears, with the clock ticking, lined up to spike the ball with a few seconds left to try a Hail Mary. Only Hanie faked the spike, hesitated, looked at his confused receivers, saw the Oakland rush, and then finally spiked the ball. He was flagged for intentional grounding, and with the 10-second runoff, the game ended. Not his best decision.

The penalty ended a day of growing pains. But Hanie did look good at times out there, throwing for two touchdowns. On his first, a 29-yard pass to Johnny Knox, Hanie read the six-man blitz early and hit a slanting Knox, who shed a tackle and raced in for the score. His second was a nine-yard throw to Kellen Davis.

His best throw was an 81-yard completion to Knox late in the fourth quarter. On third-and-16 from their own 10, down by two scores, Hanie launched a beautiful pass that Knox caught in stride and took to the Oakland 9. Good blocking allowed the quarterback time to throw the bomb that almost turned the game around.

The Bears have a few silver linings from this game. One, even though the defense wasn't great (one takeaway, and Carson Palmer threw for 301 yards), they stopped the Raiders from scoring touchdowns and made Oakland attempt some tough field goals. Unfortunately for the Bears, Janikowski is one of the best kickers in the NFL. One or two misses, though, and it's a different ballgame.

Two, the Bears rushing attack kept plugging away for positive yards. Marion Barber got more touches, and he even outgained Matt Forte Sunday, 63 yards to 59. Hanie even channeled his inner Bobby Douglass and had five rushes for 50 yards.

Three, this was a road game in Oakland, with the Black Hole going hard. If this game were in Chicago, with the swirling winds and chilly weather, perhaps this game is different? Maybe? Total stretch, I know.

And four, Hanie wasn't terrible out there. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but other than a few bad split decisions, he wasn't too bad. Hanie can fix that problem by remembering that he doesn't need to do too much for the Bears to win. He can easily game-manage the Bears to victories -- let the defense, special teams, and running game do their things, and make the safe throws when needed.

Next week's game, against the 4-7 Chiefs in Chicago, should be a nice rebound game for Hanie and the Bears.

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