Bears Looking for Improvement at Quarterback

Lake Forest - With a Super Bowl caliber defense at their disposal, the Bears have to find a way to generate more offense over the final quarter of the season and what they hope is an extended playoff run. While head coach Lovie Smith is still committed to Kyle Orton as the starter, it appears Rex Grossman may be closing the gap.

The Bears average more yards per game on the ground (133.2) than they do through the air (122.1). More than 40 percent of the team's points have come off 27 turnovers forced by the defense.

"When you say the defense has carried us, that's what they're supposed to do," Smith said. "That's the strength of our team. That and our running game is supposed to carry us. But we need to improve our quarterback play. We need to improve our passing game as a whole. So anyone involved in the passing game needs to pick it up a little bit in order for us to continue this path to win our division and to get into the playoffs."

The Bears have ridden the league's best defense and the fifth ranked rushing attack to an eight-game winning streak. With a first round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs a realistic possibility, Smith is stuck between sticking with Orton or turning to Grossman looking for a boost.

Although Orton has been at the helm for all 12 games this season, the team is winning in spite of his numbers. He's averaging 129.3 passing yards during the winning streak with seven touchdowns and interceptions. He also has a 60.2 passer rating, the lowest of any starting quarterback.

"I'm going to look at what he's done overall," Smith said. "You can look at his quarterback rating. Of course it isn't exactly what you would like for your quarterback rating to be, and then in the end I'm going to look at how many games he's won and figure he can do the job."

The problem is Orton's lack of progression. He's had a passer rating of less than 45.0 in three of the last five games and has three touchdowns to six interceptions over that stretch.

However, Smith remains confident that Orton can pick it up down the stretch.

"I think every day you go on the practice field you can improve," smith said. "Every game you play, you can improve and that's what we'll be trying to do."

Mobility is still the biggest concern with Grossman, as he heals from a broken ankle he suffered nearly four months ago. Even though there's no guarantee he'll ignite the NFL's 32nd ranked passing offense, when healthy Grossman is a more accurate passer than Orton.

"Yes, he definitely will improve the quarterback position once he's 100 percent healthy," Smith said of Grossman. "We think this week he'll get a little bit closer to that hopefully. This past week he was the third quarterback. The plan eventually is to get Rex to the second position."

If Grossman becomes Orton's backup there will be more pressure on the rookie to perform. Even in sub par outings, the Bears have never been tempted to pull Orton for Jeff Blake because they haven't trailed by more than three points during the winning streak.

"I think all guys feel comfortable when they're playing well from week to week," Smith said. "If you have a good game, you're feeling a lot better about yourself just like we are as a football team when we win. But when things don't go as well as you would like for them to, you are looking a little bit at yourself trying to just improve your game and I think that's about all it is."

It appears Smith is willing to stick with Orton for the time being, but that could change if he doesn't take a step forward.

"Every position we have is based on performance," Smith said.

"If you're the starter, you have to perform at a certain level to continue to play."


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