Palko Comes Back, Leads Chiefs Over Bears 10-3

He was racking up the interceptions at an alarming rate after replacing the injured Matt Cassel and watched as the Kansas City Chiefs brought in Kyle Orton, so this certainly had to feel better.

Yes, he got yanked from the game on Sunday. He also made a case to save his job.

Palko shook off two miserable starts and threw for 157 yards and a touchdown even though he briefly got lifted for Kyle Orton, and the Chiefs beat Chicago 10-3 Sunday on a day when the Bears lost Matt Forte to a sprained right knee.

“I’ve been around football a long time, and you know that there’s a lot of ups and downs that go with it,” Palko said. “When you’re a quarterback and you’re responsible for those turnovers those first two games and the defense is playing so well, it stings. It stings deep down in your gut. You’re not trying to throw interceptions. You’re not trying to put your team in a bad position, and it stings. You’ve got to live with that for the whole week.”

This will sit better with him.

Palko completed 17 of 30 passes without an interception after getting picked off three times in his first two starts following Matt Cassel’s season-ending hand injury, and the Chiefs snapped their four-game losing streak.

Orton took just one snap at the start of the second quarter and left the game with an injured right index finger.

Coach Todd Haley didn’t have an update on the injury after the game.

Palko connected with Dexter McCluster on a wild 38-yard pass to end the first half on a ball that got deflected by Brian Urlacher and Chris Conte, giving the Chiefs a 7-3 lead and their first touchdown in three games.

Kansas City (5-7) got a 21-yard field goal from Ryan Succop in the third quarter to make it a seven-point game, and Jon McGraw intercepted struggling backup Caleb Hanie in the end zone in the fourth.

The Chiefs also recorded seven sacks — three by Justin Houston — and intercepted Hanie three times.

The Bears (7-5) dropped their second straight after winning five in a row, but the biggest loss Sunday came in the first quarter.

Forte 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 period, another big blow for a team contending in the NFC.

Quarterback Jay Cutler was already out indefinitely after breaking his right thumb against San Diego on Nov. 20, and now Chicago might have to make do without the league’s third-leading rusher.

“It’s not a good feeling when you see your star tailback go down with a knee injury,” coach Lovie Smith said. “Part of the game. We’ll just keep our fingers crossed and hopefully it’s not that serious.”

In the fourth and final year of his rookie contract, Forte has been one of the Bears’ most valuable players. He has also been durable during his career, starting all 60 games since he entered the league in 2008, but that run could be in jeopardy.

Forte stayed on the ground while being examined by medical personnel and walked to the sideline under his own power afterward. He remained there for several minutes before heading to the locker room.

Orton, a former Bear, didn’t last long in this one.

On his first play since he was claimed off waivers from Denver, he was hit in the hand by Major Wright as he tossed an incomplete pass.

Palko came back in and was good enough for the Chiefs this week..

Hanie struggled again for the Bears, completing 11 of 24 passes with a 23.8 rating in his second start for Cutler. Besides getting sacked seven times against a team that came in with just 13, he threw three interceptions for the second straight week, and whatever chance the Bears had, basically disappeared when he got picked off in the end zone with just over four minutes left on a ball that hit off several defenders after Roy Williams juggled it.

“Don’t blame one guy for this loss,” Smith said. “We all had a big say in what happened today.”

Notes: Besides Forte, the Bears also lost Wright to a shoulder injury. … The Bears visit Denver this week in the last of four straight games against AFC West opponents. … Chiefs safety Kendrick Lewis injured a knee in the first half.

Quarterback Injuries May Reshape N.F.L. Playoffs

It happened again Sunday, when , starting for the because Matt Schaub is out for the season with a foot fracture, took a long, doleful walk to the locker room late in the second quarter, only to emerge in street clothes with his left arm in a harness. Leinart’s broken collarbone will end his season. He joins a long line of quarterbacks whose late-season injuries have imperiled their teams’ playoff chances.

Peyton Manning’s neck injury before the season caused the Indianapolis Colts to implode, and Chad Henne’s injury early in the season doomed the Miami Dolphins. But in the past few weeks, there have been injuries to Schaub, Michael Vick, Jay Cutler, Matt Cassel, Ben Roethlisberger and Matthew Stafford. Tony Romo has recovered after breaking a rib this season, and Carson Palmer is playing for the Oakland Raiders because Jason Campbell is done for the year. Sam Bradford and Kevin Kolb were injured, too, but they have been relegated to small print because of their minimal effect on the playoff races.

So far this season, 22 of the league’s 32 teams have started the same quarterback for every game or made changes for noninjury reasons, according to the N.F.L. On Sunday, there were new starters for Chicago (Caleb Hanie) and Houston (Leinart). Twenty-two is not a particularly startling number. Last year through 11 weeks, 18 of 32 teams had started the same quarterback every game or made changes for noninjury reasons.

But the number of significant injuries — those that end a player’s season or require several weeks for recovery — so late in this year threatens to reshape the playoffs.

“It’s hard, down the stretch, looking at a team like Chicago, they’re playing so well, they were really in a rhythm, which is what the playoffs are all about,” said Kurt Warner, an analyst for the NFL Network who, as a quarterback for the St. Louis Rams, saw what could happen when a soaring team lost a player to injury at that position. “Then you get into the ultimate dilemma. Regardless of how Caleb plays, when Jay gets back, when is the right time to put him back in? It’s definitely one of those things that can hurt the momentum of the team, even though the team will tell you it’s no big deal.”

In the Rams’ case, Warner’s injury in 2000 — after St. Louis had won the in the 1999 season and started the next season 6-0 — did derail them. In the first six games in 2000, the Rams never scored fewer than 37 points. Warner was hurt in the seventh game. He returned for the Rams’ 13th game, in which they scored 3 points. They were 2-2 to finish the regular season, then lost their first playoff game. “We were almost unstoppable before I got hurt, and we never recaptured that,” Warner said.

Before Leinart’s injury, Warner said he thought the Texans were better suited to withstand the injury to Schaub than the Bears were to deal with Cutler’s. That was based on Warner’s belief that Cutler’s skill allowed the Bears to overcome their greatest weakness: the offensive line.

In Houston, so much else is going right — the running game is superb, the defense is among the best in the N.F.L. — that the Texans should be able to prevail in a division that is far weaker than the N.F.C. North of the Bears.

Sunday’s results will not change that perception. Houston beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, although Leinart’s injury puts the Texans’ prospects for the next five games in doubt. But in their 25-20 loss to the Raiders, the Bears allowed Hanie to be sacked four times. He also threw three interceptions and could not prevail even though Chicago’s defense held the Raiders to field goals on their first six trips inside the 30-yard line.

The Bears are 7-4, the same as the Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons. It is practically impossible to imagine Chicago beating the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Christmas night without Cutler, but given their current state, the Bears must worry about the Kansas City Chiefs (who, given how Tyler Palko played Sunday night, could be starting Kyle Orton) and the Denver Broncos first.

Quarterback Injuries May Reshape N.F.L. Playoffs

It happened again Sunday, when , starting for the because Matt Schaub is out for the season with a foot fracture, took a long, doleful walk to the locker room late in the second quarter, only to emerge in street clothes, with his left arm in a harness. Leinart said the broken collarbone would probably end his season. He joins a long line of quarterbacks whose late-season injuries have imperiled their teams’ playoff chances.

Peyton Manning’s neck injury before the season began caused the Indianapolis Colts to implode, and Chad Henne’s injury early in the season doomed the Miami Dolphins. But in the last few weeks there have been injuries to Schaub, Michael Vick, Jay Cutler, Matt Cassel, Ben Roethlisberger and Matthew Stafford. Tony Romo has recovered after breaking a rib this season, while Carson Palmer is playing for the Oakland Raiders because Jason Campbell is done for the season, too. Sam Bradford and Kevin Kolb were injured, too, but their injuries have been relegated to small print because of their minimal impact on playoff races.

So far this season, 22 of the league’s 32 teams have started the same quarterback for every game or made changes for noninjury reasons, according to the N.F.L. On Sunday there were new starters for Chicago (Caleb Hanie) and Houston (Leinart). Twenty-two is not a particularly startling number. Last year through 11 weeks, 18 of 32 teams had started the same quarterback every game or made changes for noninjury reasons. But the number of significant injuries — those that either end the season or require several weeks for recovery — so late in this season threatens to reshape the playoffs.

“It’s hard, down the stretch, looking at a team like Chicago, they’re playing so well, they were really in a rhythm, which is what the playoffs are all about,” said Kurt Warner, an analyst for the NFL Network who, as a quarterback for the St. Louis Rams, saw up close what could happen when a soaring team lost a player to injury at that position. “Then you get into the ultimate dilemma. Regardless of how Caleb plays, when Jay gets back, when is the right time to put him back in? It’s definitely one of those things that can hurt the momentum of the team, even though the team will tell you it’s no big deal.” 

In the Rams’ case, Warner’s injury in the middle of the 2000 season —  after they had won the in the 1999 season and started the 2000 season 6-0 —  did derail them. In the first six games of that season the Rams never scored fewer than 37 points. Warner was hurt in the seventh game. He missed five games, then returned for the Rams’ 13th game, in which they scored just 3 points. They were 2-2 in the final four games of the regular season, then lost their first playoff game.

“We were almost unstoppable before I got hurt, and we never recaptured that,” Warner said.

Before Leinart’s injury, Warner thought the Texans were better suited to withstand the injury to Schaub than the Bears were to deal with Cutler’s being out. That was based on Warner’s belief that Cutler’s skill allowed the Bears to overcome their greatest weakness: the offensive line. In Houston, so much else is going right — the running game is superb, the defense is among the best in the N.F.L. — that the Texans should be able to prevail in a division that is far weaker than the National Football Conference North of the Bears.

Sunday’s results will not change that perception. The Texans beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, although Leinart’s injury puts the Texans’ next five games in doubt. But in their 25-20 loss to the Raiders, the Bears allowed Hanie to be sacked four times. He also threw three interceptions and could not prevail even though Chicago’s defense held the Raiders to field goals on their first six trips into the Bears’ 30-yard line. The Bears are now 7-4, the same record the Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons had after Sunday’s games. It is practically impossible to imagine the Bears beating the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Christmas night without Cutler, but considering their current state, the Bears now have to worry about the Kansas City Chiefs (who, considering how Tyler Palko played Sunday night, could be starting Kyle Orton) and the Denver Broncos first.