In his first NFL start, Caleb Hanie attacked the opportunity of a lifetime like a young quarterback who thinks he can be something in this league — and he paid the price.
Hanie threw two touchdowns, but three interceptions in the Bears’ 25-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at Oakland-Alameda County Stadium. And while he threw for 254 yards on 18-of-36 passing, the Raiders had 99 yards in interception return yardage — the most damaging being Kamerion Wimbley’s 73-yard return of an ill-fated misdirection screen pass that some might blame more on offensive coordinator Mike Martz than Hanie.
Regardless, Hanie was disconsolate – but to the point — when asked about his overall performance.
”Not good,” he said. ”You have that many turnovers, you’re not going to win many games.”
Hanie acknowledged that his anxiety got the best of him in his first NFL start. His 56.9 passer rating wasn’t much lower than Cutler’s NFL starting debut with the Denver Broncos in 2006. He also threw two touchdown passes and had three turnovers — two interceptions and a fumble — in a 23-20 home loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
”I was a little antsy early on — a little too amped I feel like,” Hanie said. ”I don’t normally miss balls like the one to Matt [Forte] up the middle [it sailed over Forte’s head and was intercepted]. I just felt a little pressure and sailed it on him. I have to protect the ball better in that situation. And I can’t make those throws. It just wasn’t able to happen today.”
The biggest interception, though was Wimbley’s. Even after Hanie had thrown two interceptions, the Bears had reversed the momentum after Hanie beat a Raiders blitz for a 29-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Knox for a 7-6 lead and Knox returned a kickoff 56 yards to the Raiders 35.
The Bears had a second-and-one at the Raiders 7-yard line when Hanie faked a screen to his right and turned around and tried a screen pass to tight end Kellen Davis to his left. But Aaron Curry, the former first-round draft pick (by then Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell, now the Bears’ director of player personnel) read the play all the way and tipped the ball in the air, where Wimbley grabbed it and returned 73 yards to the Bears 12.
”It was a sprint-throwback screen to Kellen and it it’s man coverage, we’re throwing to the front side there. We got zone and the linebacker just read it really well. I got it over the first guy, which is how it usually works in practice. There’s one guy in front in-between you and him, you get it over and it’s a touchdown normally.
”But the second guy closed in on it quick and was able to disrupt the attempt by Kellen. I guess it was Wimbley who retraced and made a good play catching the ball.
”It’s normally safe. We have blockers going that way, but I’ll have to look at it on tape and see exactly what happened. In my mind, it was safe and when I came back and threw it, I thought we got them because I got it over the initial end.”
It potentially was a six- or 10-point swing. Bears right tackle Lance Louis hustled to tackle Wimbley and save a touchdown. But Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 19-yard field goal for a 12-7 halftime lead. But the Bears could have had a 12-9 or 16-9 lead.
”Lance Louis made a good play on that one saving the touchdown,” Hanie said. ”They only got three points out of it. That’s overlooked, but that was a great play by him.”
Hanie had his share of rookie mistakes. The Bears had a chance to win the game in the final minute, down 25-20 with the ball at their 4-yard line and 1:01 left. But with no timeouts Hanie tried to spike the ball to stop the clock after a 12-yard pass to Matt Forte to the Bears 46 with four seconds left. But after starting to spike the ball he instead held onto it and then spiked it. That’s an intentional-grounding penalty, and with the 10-second runoff as part of the penalty, the game was over.
”I was just going to kill the clock and I came back and just was taking a look outside to see if they were paying attention and I spiked it,” Hanie said. ”We didn’t have any fakes or anything like that. That was just my fault Six second or seven seconds left, I should have just got it and killed it.”
The good news for the Bears is that they are still in the playoff hunt at 7-4. And Hanie will get a chance to show he can learn from his mistakes. The Bears play the Kansas City Chiefs at Soldier Field on Sunday.