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Mistakes plague Caleb Hanie in debut

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith never took direct questions about Caleb Hanie's status as the interim starting quarterback after he threw three crippling interceptions in the team's 25-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

By all indications, however, the Bears plan to line up with Hanie again as the starting quarterback next Sunday when they face the Kansas City Chiefs.

"It's tough coming in your first game," Smith said. "Just think about starting (early in) the season you have some mistakes that you won't have later in the year. But we have a small curve. We've got to get it down as soon as we possibly can. I saw enough for us to build off today. Next week, you'll see better play from the quarterback position."


The coach didn't say specifically who would man that position, but Hanie said both Smith and offensive coordinator Mike Martz approached him after the game, as did teammates with everyone expressing confidence about the quarterback's ability to lead in the absence of starter Jay Cutler.

The key for Hanie is to eliminate the costly mistakes.

Hanie admitted to coming out "antsy, a little bit too amped," and the jitters appeared to have contributed to the turnovers. Hanie completed his first pass of the game for a 5-yard gain to Roy Williams, and he scrambled for a 17-yard gain three possessions later with the run being wiped out by a Tyler Clutts personal-foul flag.

From there, things fell apart for Hanie as he tossed an interception two plays later to Stanford Routt, and watched his final pass of the opening quarter sail into the arms of Raiders safety Michael Huff for another interception.

Hanie said Cutler -- serving as a coach on the sidelines because of his thumb injury -- played a major role as a calming factor and contributed to Hanie playing better after his third interception late in the second quarter.

"At one point, we just started talking at random about something," Hanie said. "That just kind of got my mind off things. I felt calm after that. Jay was with me the whole time, all along the way. So he was a good presence on the sidelines."

Hanie completed just 7 of 15 in the first quarter for 72 yards and a passer rating of 43.6. But in the second half, Hanie rebounded to throw for 182 yards.

Most importantly, he performed in the clutch.

Hanie hit on 10 of 18 for 175 yards in the fourth quarter alone, including an 81-yard connection with Johnny Knox in helping the Bears score 13 points to close the game.

Hanie's moxie is what gives Smith optimism about moving forward with him as the quarterback until Cutler is healthy enough to return.

"We would like to have a couple of plays back, but he gave us an opportunity to win at the end on the road against a good defense," Smith said. "We can build off this performance."

That's the sentiment the staff expressed to Hanie in the locker room just minutes after the game.

"They have the same confidence they had in me last week when you guys talked to them," Hanie said. "There have been a lot of quarterbacks that have thrown picks in games; a lot of guys in their first starts. You just can't let it happen again. That's the thing.

"You just have to build on the good things and learn from the mistakes. I'm confident we can do that. I'm not worried about the outside stuff because all the guys inside I know have confidence in me. That gives me a great sense of urgency to get better quick(ly)."

Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.