LAKE FOREST, Ill. - The way Kyle Orton has been giving away the ball lately, it's hard to believe the Chicago Bears quarterback was so stingy not too long ago.
He threw a club-record 205 passes without an interception, but that is a distant memory.
Well, with their playoff hopes hanging in the balance, the Bears hope to see some of Orton's old mistake-free ways at Houston on Sunday.
``I try to play that way,'' Orton said. ``I haven't been able to do it the last few weeks. We haven't been very efficient in the passing game the last few weeks, and that starts with me. I take it upon myself to do whatever we have to do to get it done.''
He has been shaky the past few weeks.
One of the team's most valuable offensive players early in the season, Orton hasn't been the same since he got carted off the field with a sprained ankle against Detroit on Nov. 2. He sat out the following week against Tennessee and still is trying to rediscover the touch he had before he went down.
s dropping, too.
Yet, the Bears are on a three-game winning streak that ranks as their longest since the 2006 Super Bowl season. Chicago still has a shot at the NFC North championship and a wild card spot.
If the Bears beat Houston, they would win the NFC North if Minnesota loses to or ties the New York Giants. A win plus losses or ties by Dallas and Tampa Bay would give them the wild card. If Chicago ties the Texans, it would need Minnesota to lose or for Dallas and Tampa Bay to fall.
Either way, the Bears need help from the outside.
They could also use some from within - particularly from their quarterback.
After going six games without an interception, including the first two following the injury, he has been picked off eight times in the last four. And his rating the past two weeks is below 50.
``It's hard to say exactly the reason why,'' coach Lovie Smith said. ``But the same guy that you saw earlier that threw all those passes without an interception, that's what we are expecting to get this week.''
Orton was enjoying a breakout season after beating Rex Grossman for the No. 1 quarterback job. He had five straight starts with 199 or more yards before that game against Detroit in early November. Since his return, he has thrown for more than 172 yards just once while being victimized by dropped passes and his own poor decisions.
defenders. He has thrown a few with the Bears trailing, perhaps a sign that he's pressing.
Against Green Bay, he threw two in the second half before Chicago tied it.
``They were just not very good decisions,'' offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. ``I don't think he trusted what he saw. I think he was pressing a little bit. I think he was trying too hard to make something happen instead of just reading the coverage, which he's done such a great job of all year. He's got to get back to that - just read the coverage and go where it takes you.''
He'll get no argument from Orton.
``When people press a little bit too much, try to do a little bit extra, we get in trouble - especially offensively,'' the quarterback said.
The result is bad decisions, the kind that lead to interceptions. Yet for all those bad reads, Orton has come through late in back-to-back overtime wins over New Orleans and Green Bay.
He connected with Greg Olsen for 17 yards and Matt Forte for 14 before Robbie Gould booted his second straight winning field goal against the Packers on Monday night. Against the Saints 11 nights earlier, Orton completed seven straight passes near the end of regulation to get Chicago in field-goal range.
se plays,'' Turner said. ``Nothing tricky at all. We were running plays that we put in the first day of training camp. I think it drives that message home that we don't have to trick people; we just have to line up and execute.
``You saw the results. Hopefully, Kyle as a young quarterback will understand, 'I don't have to do anything more. Just go with my reads and run the offense, and good things will happen.'''

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