It sounds as if the Bears' plan for inexperienced quarterback Caleb Hanie Sunday against the Broncos in Denver is giving him more to work with, rather than scaling back the offense to simplify matters.
"He's not making mental errors," offensive coordinator Mike Martz said. "He's sharp with everything, so he's learning under the gun so to speak. We've got to get him into the game a little bit earlier. (We were) probably a little bit too conservative with him. He's capable of probably more than what we're doing with him. So, we'll be a little bit more aggressive with him."
Hanie says he knows exactly what the Bears' offense must do in Denver if it is to avoid the disastrous performance it turned in during last week's 10-3 loss at home to the Chiefs.
"Just taking advantage of the plays that are there to be made," Hanie said, alluding to the missed opportunities in his second NFL start. "We left three (touchdowns) on the field. When we're down there (near) the red zone four times, and we only come away with three points, that's never good."
In case anyone's forgotten, the Bears frittered away one touchdown when Marion Barber failed to line up on the line of scrimmage before he caught an apparent 4-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. On the next possession, Hanie overthrew a wide open Earl Bennett at the goal line. At the end of the third quarter, the Bears reached the Chiefs' 7-yard line, but Hanie was sacked on back-to-back plays before Robbie Gould missed a 41-yard field goal. In the fourth quarter, Roy Williams' end-zone bobble and drop wound up as an interception.
Four scoring opportunities, three points, one loss. Those wasted chances summarized the major malfunctions in the Bears' offense last week: inaccuracy by Hanie, poor protection from the line, and precious little help from the supporting cast.
"We didn't coach real good, and we didn't play real good around him either, so there are a lot of things that went on in that game," Martz said. "We just have to clean things up with everybody, not just Caleb."
Martz's play-calling has been criticized by some as putting Hanie in difficult situations but the quarterback insists that play-calling is not part of the problem.
"I'm very confident in Mike's play-calling, and I'm very confident in whatever he brings in," the quarterback said. "And I'm confident that our guys are going to improve and that I'm going to improve and I'm going to make the plays that need to be made."
The will be the 14th regular-season meeting between the two teams. Bears lead series, 7-6 and have won the past two meetings, including the latest, a 37-34 shootout at Soldier Field in 2007. The only other meeting since 1997 was a 19-10 Bears victory at Denver in 2003.
--WR-RS Devin Hester returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown and a punt 75 yards for a touchdown in the Bears' last meeting with the Broncos on Nov. 25, 2007.
--WR Johnny Knox is fourth in the NFL with 295 receiving yards over the past three weeks on 12 catches for a 24.6-yard average and two touchdowns. He's averaging 20.5 yards per catch on the season.
--DT Henry Melton has a career-high six sacks, including one in each of the past two games. He had 2.5 sacks last season after spending his rookie season on injured reserve.
--PK Robbie Gould is still the third-most-accurate field-goal kicker in NFL history despite missing a 41-yarder last week. He's 24 of 27 on the season, missing from 41 yards twice and 43 once, while hitting 5-for-5 from 50 yards or longer.
--P Adam Podlesh is fifth in the NFL with a net average of 40.8 yards, and he has just two touchbacks on 63 kicks and opponents have averaged a league-low 3.3 yards on punt returns against Podlesh and the Bears this season.
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