Chicago Tyler Palko got yanked from the game — and possibly saved his job. He wasn’t making any bold proclamations, though.
Palko shook off two miserable starts and threw for 157 yards and a touchdown even though he was briefly lifted for Kyle Orton, and the Kansas City Chiefs beat Chicago 10-3 Sunday on a day when the Bears lost Matt Forte to a sprained right knee.
“No one likes to get taken out, but at the end of the day, it’s the coach’s decision and you’ve got to roll with the punches,” Palko said. “(Coach Todd Haley) indicated earlier in the week by any means necessary, we need to get a win.”
The Chiefs got one, and their four-game losing streak ended.
The quarterback debate?
Well, that might not be over, but Palko can at least say he made a strong case.
“You have to earn the right to put your hands underneath center,” he said. “If that’s a week-by-week basis, then that’s how it’s going to be. I’m not the coach, and I don’t handle those decisions.”
He might get some more time, considering Orton took just one snap at the start of the second quarter and left the game after injuring his right index finger.
Haley said he doesn’t “really have much to give you” when asked about the injury.
Palko gave him enough, though. He 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 after that hit to the knee. 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 wound up completing 17 of 30 passes without an interception. It was a big improvement for a quarterback who got picked off three times in each of his first two starts after Matt Cassel suffered a season-ending hand injury.
“I really thought Tyler did a great job today,” Orton said. “He’s been through a lot. It’s great to see a guy get his chance and take advantage of it.”
Hanie might be blowing his opportunity, though.
“Don’t blame one guy for this loss,” Smith said. “We all had a big say in what happened today.”
Hanie did nothing to quiet the calls for the Bears to go after Donovan McNabb, completing 11 of 24 passes 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.
Hanie had completed four straight passes to put the ball on the Chicago 13 after connecting on just one in the second half when Roy Williams juggled a throw. The ball hit off several defenders before a diving McGraw picked it off in the end zone with just over 4 minutes left.
“Obviously, the production wasn’t there,” Hanie said. “Three points is not good enough. I’ve just got to do a better job getting us in the right position and getting the ball to our guys.”
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.