The 2011 season has been a strange odyssey for Kyle Orton. After winning the starting job in Denver in the preseason, he was benched for Tim Tebow. Claimed by Kansas City off waivers, he then dislocated a finger on his first pass attempt (a flea flicker, mind you) in a Chiefs uniform. And on Sunday, he took the field to face the Green Bay Packers for the second time this season. An odd 15 week stretch by any measure.
But there Orton in his Arrowhead Stadium debut, out-performing Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, not turning the ball over and leading the Chiefs to a 19-14 win and perhaps the biggest upset of the season.
In two games against the Packers, Orton threw for a combined 572 yards, and on Sunday he was efficient (23 of 31) and did not take unnecessary chances with the football. Sure, Orton played well at times during his career, but raise your hand if you pegged the Chiefs in Week 15 as the team that would end Green Bay’s 19-game win streak.
The bigger story of the day was the way Kansas City’s defensive front abused a battered Green Bay offensive line — an indication of interim coach Romeo Crennel’s impact on his team and a troubling sign for Green Bay’s hopes of reaching a second straight Super Bowl.
Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali had three of his team’s four sacks of Rodgers as Kansas City overwhelmed a patchwork line that finished the game with its left guard playing third-string right tackle.
Starter Bryan Bulaga injured his knee at the start of the third quarter and rookie backup Derek Sherrod broke his right leg one quarter later. The injuries forced head coach Mike McCarthy to move left guard T.J. Lang to right tackle and bring in Evan Dietrich-Smith, who promptly allowed a sack on his second snap of the game.
For a team that relies on the pass as much as Green Bay does, inexperience along the offensive line provides a critical chink in the armor against blitz-happy teams (like, say, the Saints for instance?).
Was Sunday’s showing a precursor to an early playoff exit for the Packers? Or was the loss simply a pothole that will help them refocus for another run to the Super Bowl?
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