Tebow, Broncos Beat Bears 13-10 in Overtime

Chicago won the toss and Caleb Hanie completed three quick passes to put the Bears in field goal range. Then, Marion Barber, filling in for Matt Forte, burst through the line for a first down.

Just then, linebacker Wesley Woodyard reached out in desperation and tugged on his right arm. The ball popped loose and Elvis Dumervil smothered it at the Broncos 34.

“He gashed us on that play, and somehow I just had to make a play,” Woodyard said. “That’s what it’s all about, making plays at the end of the game.”

That’s something the Broncos (8-5) have perfected.

Tebow drove the Broncos downfield and Matt Prater, whose 59-yard field goal with 3 seconds left in regulation tied it, booted a 51-yarder with 8:34 left in overtime to give Denver an improbable 13-10 win.

“If you believe,” Tebow said, “then unbelievable things can sometimes be possible.”

Prater’s third straight walk-off field goal gave the Broncos their sixth consecutive win and moved them into sole possession of first place in the AFC West at 8-5, a game ahead of Oakland.

Tebow improved to 7-1 since taking over as the starter in Denver, and six of those wins have involved second-half comebacks, five of them necessitating fourth-quarter rallies, three of which went to overtime.

No other quarterback in NFL history has produced six fourth-quarter comebacks in his first 11 NFL starts.

Broncos coach John Fox said Tebow has “competitive greatness. He wants the ball in clutch time.”

After failing to score on their first dozen possessions, the Broncos faced the possibility of their first home shutout in the team’s 52-year history. Instead, they erased a 10-0 deficit in the final 2:08 of regulation.

“I think we’re rewriting the book on ‘keep fighting,'” Fox said. “Our guys never blink. They remain positive. As bad as it looked today — we didn’t play well; we had some drops. But the guy who dropped a couple of passes caught the … touchdown. That’s kind of the M.O. on this bunch.”

Tebow threw a 10-yard touchdown strike to Demaryius Thomas, who had three drops, and then got the ball back with 53 seconds left after Barber saved the Broncos precious time by going out of bounds when the Bears were trying to run out the clock.

Denver was out of timeouts after Thomas’ touchdown and had to try an onside kick, which the Broncos couldn’t recover. But on second down after the two-minute warning, Barber cut outside and was pushed out, stopping the clock.

“That’s usually something that never happens with a veteran running back,” Woodyard said. “It’s just like things go our way.”

Barber wasn’t around after the game to talk about his blunders.

“We all know what type of player Marion is,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “All running backs are trying to get a couple more yards here and there. But we have to know the situation. In that situation, we have to be able to keep the ball inbounds. He’ll tell you that. I know we’d all like to have that one back.”

The Bears would have to punt, and Tebow got the ball back at his 20 and went to work, not needing to go far with Prater’s strong leg in the thin air. He drove the Broncos 39 yards for Prater’s kick, which he rocketed through the uprights to tie it at 10.

The Bears (7-6) won the toss in overtime and quickly got into field goal range before Barber, who rushed for 108 yards but will be remembered for his two late mistakes, coughed up the football.

“He was making a tough run, trying to get extra yards,” Hanie said. “It’s unfortunate. You want to stay in right there but that didn’t lose the game for us. We lost it by not generating more points.”

Tebow, who also led Denver to wins in OT at Miami and San Diego, took the Broncos from their 34 to the Chicago 33, and Prater sent the stadium into delirium.

The Bears, whose playoff hopes are faltering, are 0-3 since Hanie replaced an injured Jay Cutler, the former Broncos QB who has a broken thumb on his throwing hand and is out indefinitely.

With Matt Forte sidelined by a knee injury, Barber broke a scoreless tie in the third quarter with a 9-yard touchdown run and added a 16-yard gain on a screen to set up Robbie Gould’s team-record 57-yard field goal on the first snap of the fourth quarter.

“We gave it away,” Devin Hester said. “We were up 10 points.”

That’s not enough when Tebow’s around.

“Those last five minutes, if it’s within reach for us to get it, we feel like we’re going to win,” Woodyard said. “For all the Tebow haters: You’d better start believing.”

Notes: The Broncos lost SS Brian Dawkins (neck), DB David Bruton (ankle), CB Andre’ Goodman (concussion) and FB Spencer Larsen (hamstring). … Denver ensured itself of avoiding two consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1971-72, something that seemed unlikely when they were 1-4 with Kyle Orton at QB.


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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.

Bad Day for Bears All Around in Loss to Chiefs

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.”