Growing Pains

Lake Forest - Bears quarterback Kyle Orton had a miserable start against the Saints, but unlike Week 3, when he had a five-interception meltdown against the Bengals, the rookie was able to make plays when he had to, continuing his development in a 20-17 victory.

Orton's best pass of the day might have been the 22-yarder he threw to Pro Bowl wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad to set up the game-winning field goal.

"Kyle at the end of the game when he had to make a few plays, the big third-down play, he made, that's what I'm going to chose to remember," said head coach Lovie Smith.

And when workhorse running back Thomas Jones left the game at halftime with bruised ribs, rookie Cedric Benson and seldom-used back Adrian Peterson picked up the slack.

"When you're a young quarterback, you're not going to make every play," said Muhammad, who caught three passes for a game-best 85 yards. "The thing I like about Kyle is that, even though he doesn't make every play -- he may throw some interceptions, that's part of the growing process -- but he's going to stand in there and deliver the next ball like he never knew what happened on the last play. You have to have nerves of steel, and he threw some big passes in the game."

The Bears ground game actually picked up without Jones, whose running has accounted for most what little offense Chicago has produced this season. Although he ran for 40 yards on 11 carries in the first half, Jones was unable to answer the bell for the second half after aggravating the bruised ribs he suffered a week earlier.

Surprisingly, the Bears didn't miss a beat in the running game (183 yards on 32 carries). Benson, whose 27-yard burst started the game-winning drive, had his best day as a pro with 79 yards on 14 carries, and so did Adrian Peterson, who had 58 yards on six carries. Peterson's career-best 36-yard run set up his 6-yard TD run that put the Bears ahead 17-10 and capped a 94-yard drive with 7:29 left in the third quarter.

"Those guys stepped up," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "They're good players; we feel very fortunate. Thomas is obviously having a great year, and he's a very good running back, and he's been very productive for us. But we feel we have two other guys that we can count on that are good players also."

In Need of a Break
While head coach Lovie Smith said RB Thomas Jones is day-to-day with bruised ribs, there's a chance the Bears could chose to rest him against the 49ers (2-6).

Jones has been limited in practice for the past month. Considering the way Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson rushed the ball in the second half against the Saints it might not be a bad move to sit Jones.

"Each game we're going to go with our best team, the best one we feel can help us win," Smith said. "Two weeks having the same problem, yeah, we'll probably tend to lean in that direction since we do have the guys but Thomas will play if he's ready to go physically and we'll never put him out there if he's not."

Looking to Upgrade
Even though Roberto Garza has played well over the past four games, Ruben Brown is likely to return to practice on Wednesday and move back into the starting lineup at left guard against San Francisco.

"We like what we've done but if you can improve any area, we'll always do that," Smith said.


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