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Backup QB Caleb Hanie should be better the next time around

Chicago Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie throws against OaklRaiders during first quarter an NFL football game OaklCalif. Sunday Nov. 27 2011.

Chicago Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie throws against the Oakland Raiders during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

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Updated: January 1, 2012 8:21AM

Caleb Hanie had a tough day in his first NFL start last week. But for young quarterbacks in his situation, it usually gets better.

When Anthony Wright took over for Kyle Boller with the Baltimore Ravens in 2003, he was terrible in his first game — 14-of-25 for 112 yards and two interceptions (34.1 rating). The following week against the Seahawks he was 20-of-37 for 319 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 119.1 rating.

David Garrard wasn’t asked to do too much in his first game in place of Byron Leftwich with the Jaguars in 2005. he was 11-of-20 for 116 yards, two touchdowns and an interception (84.6 rating). The following week against the Colts, he was almost as good as Peyton Manning — 26-of-35 for 250 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions (103.3).

There are too many variables to make an absolute judgment, but in general, quarterbacks usually are more efficient and have fewer turnovers in the second and third games. Even the Buccaneers’ Chris Simms, who struggled in his first two games in place of Brian Griese in 2005, threw three touchdown passes — including the game-winner in the final minute — and had a 119.8 rating in a victory over the Redskins.


Cedric Benson is used to overcoming adversity. Breaking out of a funk that seemed to coincide with his suspension related to an offseason misdemeanor assault conviction, the former Bears running back rushed for 106 yards on 21 carries, including a 16-yard touchdown in the Cincinnati Bengals’ 23-20 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday in Cincinnati.

Benson originally was suspended for three games by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, but had the penalty reduced to one game upon appeal. He did not play against the Seahawks on Oct. 30.

In his previous five games, Benson rushed for 296 yards and 3.3 yards per carry. He scored two touchdowns in a loss to the Ravens last week before breaking the 100-yard mark for the 16th time in 55 games with the Bengals. Benson, still just 28, broke the 100-yard mark twice in 35 games with the Bears.

Benson is 13th in the NFL in rushing with 740 yards on 188 carries (3.9 per carry). He has scored five touchdowns.


When the Bears played the Raiders in Oakland in 2007, Robbie Gould could match Sebastian Janikowski in accuracy but couldn’t touch him in distance. In fact, Gould’s 53-yard attempt in the Bears’ 17-6 victory was his first kick beyond 50 yards outdoors in three seasons with the Bears.

The kick was short, only confirming the one knock on the ever-accurate, ever-clutch Gould — he can’t kick long field goals. On their next drive, the Bears reached the Raiders 34-yard line. And punted.

While Janikowski showed off his improved accuracy in Sunday’s 25-20 victory over the Bears by hitting six-of-six field goals — most of them layups and free throws for him — Gould showed off his improved leg strength with field goals from 50 and 53 yards.

Gould is now five-for-five on field goals of 50 or more yards this season. That’s as many 50-yarders as he had hit in his first five seasons with the Bears. In fact, he only even attempted two in his first four years. But since 2009, Gould has made 10-of-11 field goals from 50 or beyond.

‘‘Everyone said I couldn’t make 50-yard field goals in the beginning of my career,’’ Gould said. ‘‘But I never really got a lot of attempts — that’s just not the style of football we play here.

‘‘I think by making a few later down the road, I might have gained a little more confidence from coach [Lovie] Smith and Dave Toub.’’

Gould, the third-most accurate kicker in NFL history (86.3 percent), is 23-of-25 (92.0 percent) for the season. He’s having a Pro Bowl-caliber season. But it’s not easy to make the Pro Bowl when you kick in Soldier Field. His one miss there this season was a wind-blown 43-yarder against the Lions.

‘‘It’s definitely tougher,’’ Gould said. ‘‘But I think you gain more respect for kicking in a place like Chicago. Unfortunately, I’m not anywhere close in the fan voting. So hopefully my colleagues and the other coaches respect me for what I do. I just have to finish the season strong and if I keep making kicks, I’ll make a case for myself. . . I’ve been an All-Pro. And I prepare every week like I am an All-Pro.’’

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