Bears Hope Orton's Not in a Giving Mood

In an attempt to stop the running game, the offense has had to account for an extra man on the line of scrimmage all season. Despite being dared to throw, the Bears have yet to have a breakout passing game. While it's unlikely to happen against the Panthers, Kyle Orton will have to manage an efficient day for the Bears to come away with a victory.

Carolina's defense is among the best in the league in coming up with the ball. The unit ranks second in the league with 26 turnovers, including 13 interceptions and 13 fumble recoveries. The unit has forced 14 turnovers, recorded 19 sacks and scored two touchdowns off interception returns in the past four games.

Filed position is a primary reason the Panthers are fourth in the league at 27.8 points per game, but rank 22nd in total offense. Of their 28 offensive touchdowns only 10 of the drives have been at least 70 yards.

Conversely the Bears have given the ball away 22 times, which is tied for the third most in the NFL. Orton has accounted for 13 of those turnovers with 10 interceptions and four fumbles.

The rookie quarterback has had two sub par performances after having putting up a career high 230 yards against Detroit. Winds last week would have limited any quarterback, but Orton needs to put together a sound performance against the Panthers.

Because of the Bears' inability to throw the ball successfully most of the season, productivity in the running game has been essential. The Bears are ranked fifth in the league in rushing yards and sixth in average gain per running play, but they have not faced a run defense as stingy as the Panthers' this season.

"Just know that our philosophy is to run the football, we're going to try to do it against everyone and guys keep stepping up making plays," said head coach Lovie Smith. " It's no more than that, that's what we do and we're going to try to do it against anyone we play."

Fortunately for the Bears, the offensive line, bothered all week while downplaying the fight between center Olin Kreutz and right tackle Fred Miller, should be close to full strength. Despite his broken jaw, Miller was upgraded to probable after practicing Thursday, and left guard Ruben Brown (chest) was removed from the injury report.

Even with running back Thomas Jones back on the field after sitting last week against the 49ers, it could be difficult to get the ground game going. The Panthers haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher this season.

By no means will the Bears ask Orton to win the game, but making the occasional play downfield would loosen up the line of scrimmage.

"I think everybody's going to step up," Orton said. "I don't think you can put it on one guy and say he has to have a big game. You can't go into a game against a solid opponent and say one guy's going to have make plays. Everybody's going to have to make plays."

On his longest connection of the day against San Francisco, Orton used play action to find TE Desmond Clark for a 31-yard gain. That should be a weapon against a defense focused on stopping the run.

However, Orton needs to make better decisions than he has of late. Last week he tried to force the ball to Muhsin Muhammad in the end zone and it resulted in an interception and blown scoring opportunity.

The offense can't afford to let guaranteed points slip away against Carolina.

It will be difficult to use anything more than short drops against the Panthers because of their defensive ends. Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker have combined for 12 sacks. The occasional shot down field will open up Orton to taking a big hit or rushing his read and making a bad decision.

"Like with any quarterback, whether it's Kyle Orton or Brooks Bollinger or Chris Simms or Jake Delhomme, everybody tries to disrupt the quarterback," said Carolina coach John Fox. "I don't think that's going to be any different this week as far as what we're going to try and do."

The Bengals proved Orton could be rattled. It's now a test of how far he's come since his five-interception performance against Cincinnati.

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