So, what else can happen to a team still clinging to its playoff hopes?
“It’s not A running back. It’s Matt Forte,” star linebacker Brian Urlacher said after 10-3 loss to Kansas City.
“They’re two of the best players on your team, you know?”
Without Cutler and then for most of the day Sunday without Forte, who has a sprained right knee, the offense for the Bears (7-5) really began to wobble. And the result was sort of ugly.
Backup QB Caleb Hanie had trouble avoiding the rush and was sacked seven times. He also had great difficulty at times in getting the ball to his receivers and, for the second straight game since replacing Cutler, he threw three interceptions.
“Obviously, the production wasn’t there,” Hanie said after completing 11 of 24 for 133 yards and finishing with a QB rating of 23.8.
“Three points is not good enough,” he added. “I’ve just got to do a better job getting us in the right position and getting the ball to our guys.”
Hanie overthrew a wide-open Earl Bennett with a pass that would have been a touchdown in the second quarter. In the third quarter with the Bears at the Chiefs 7, Hanie was sacked on back-to-back plays and reliable Robbie Gould missed a 41-yard field goal.
Nothing went well for the Bears during the dismal home-field performance.
The Bears’ only points came on a 32-yarder by Gould — after an illegal formation call on Chicago wiped out a TD pass from Hanie to Marion Barber.
In the fourth quarter, Hanie found the range on four straight completions and it appeared the Bears were finally on their way to a touchdown.
But Hanie’s very catchable pass to Roy Williams in traffic went off the receiver’s hands, hit a Chiefs defender and Kansas City’s Jon McGraw picked it off in the end zone.
“Don’t blame one guy for this loss,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “We had a big say in what happened today. … Caleb was part of it. Caleb needs to make improvements like we all do and we all will.”
Chicago’s defense gave up the game’s lone TD on a Hail Mary pass from Tyler Palko to Dexter McCluster on the final play of the first half.
Both Urlacher and safety Chris Conte went up to bat the ball down, but instead knocked it right to McCluster.
“The guy just happened to catch that one. We’ve done it a hundred times and it’s the first time anyone has caught one,” Urlacher said.
“We knocked it down. Chris and I, we both hit it. I don’t know if it went straight down or it went backward. I guess I should have caught it or tried to, but it’s just not what we do. I’ve never done that. So I just try to knock it down.”
Palko shook off two miserable starts and threw for 157 yards and a touchdown even though he was briefly lifted for Kyle Orton for one play starting the second quarter.
But Orton hurt a finger on his right hand on his one pass attempt and Palko was back in.
Hanie’s performance could re-ignite talk of signing veteran Donovan McNabb.
“I’m not going to come in here and tell you we’re going to start making changes,” Smith said. “We’re going to evaluate our situation and see where we need to go from here.”
The Chiefs (5-7) ended their four-game losing streak ended. Who knows if the quarterback debate is over.
“You have to earn the right to put your hands underneath center,” Palko said.
Kansas City got a 21-yard field goal from Ryan Succop in the third quarter to make it a seven-point game. And Justin Houston had three sacks for a K.C. defense that hounded Hanie most of the day.
The Bears dropped their second straight after winning five in a row, but the biggest loss Sunday came in the first quarter.
Forte, third in the NFL in rushing entering the game, took a hit to the right knee from Derrick Johnson on a run for no gain deep in Chicago territory with 6 minutes left in the first period.
“It’s not a good feeling when you see your star tailback go down with a knee injury,” Smith said. “Part of the game. We’ll just keep our fingers crossed and hopefully it’s not that serious.”