To the rest of the world, Tyler Palko’s first victory as a starting quarterback in the NFL was hardly a work of art. The Chiefs’ 10-3 win over the Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field owed more to a gritty defense than any offensive wizardry.
To Palko, though — and by extension, his team — the game was something to be cherished. With the victory, the Chiefs moved to 5-7 and, combined with Oakland’s loss to Miami, climbed back within two games of the AFC West lead.
McCluster’s positioning resulted in the only touchdown of Kansas City’s 10-3 victory in Chicago. It came off a 38-yard Hail Mary pass in the closing seconds of the first half when Bears LB Brian Urlacher followed football’s defensive handbook and batted Tyler Palko’s prayer towards the turf.
Urlacher utilized a good strategy. It’s the right strategy. Unfortunately, for Urlacher, it’s a strategy that doesn’t account for a 5’8” jitterbug weaving into the end zone as a trail player.
“We work on that play every Friday,” McCluster explained. “You never know what play it’s going to be, but I’m the guy that’s looking for any tipped balls. It worked out perfectly. He tipped the ball right to me.
yler Palko didn’t turn the ball over, for instance, even if a few of his passes could’ve been intercepted. Tyson Jackson got his second career sack, a play that helped push the Bears back far enough that Robbie Gould missed a 41-yard field-goal attempt. Dexter McCluster gained 107 yards of offense, including a career-long 32-yard run that may signal that the Chiefs are closer to figuring out how to use him.
But mostly, in a season otherwise defined by failure and injuries, a defense led by coordinator Romeo Crennel is playing its best of the season. Teams will make the playoffs this year with worse defenses.
Instead, McCluster was there, the smallest player on the field making the biggest play of the day as he calmly watched the ball bounce off Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher’s hands and into McCluster’s arms for a touchdown. And that was the only one the Chiefs needed Sunday in a 10-3 victory against the Bears.
“Once I saw how he was going to hit the ball down,” McCluster said, “I knew it was coming right to me. I just prepared myself for it, and it fell right in my lap.”
“I don’t know if I hit it on the guy’s hand or whatever, you know,” Orton said. “I just popped it out and it was some bad luck.”
Orton’s entry was scripted and not a reaction to Palko’s play.
“We had a little plan, in addition to having him ready to play, if needed,” head coach Todd Haley said. “We weren’t making a quarterback change, so to speak. I want to strategically be careful about what I say. But I felt good about both guys being prepared to play and get the job done.”