CHICAGO, DEC. 29 -- The Kansas City Chiefs were grateful recipients of one of the most efficient quarterback performances this season; the Chicago Bears were recipients of one of the worst quarterback performances imaginable.
Steve DeBerg, a pin sticking out of his fractured left pinkie, completed 25 of 32 passes for 276 yards today as the Chiefs kept their AFC West title hopes alive with a 21-10 victory over the Bears at misty Soldier Field.
Mike Tomczak, on the other hand, was cheered once all day by the home fans: when he was injured, giving them hope he might have to be removed from the game.
DeBerg's passing set up five Nick Lowery field goals and a three-yard touchdown run by Christian Okoye, keeping the Chiefs (11-5) within sight of the Los Angeles Raiders in the AFC West.
If the San Diego Chargers beat the Raiders Sunday at Los Angeles Coliseum, the Chiefs will win the division. If not, the Raiders will win the West and the Chiefs will have to settle for a wild-card visit to Miami. Regardless, the Chiefs have won six of seven and have momentum for the playoffs.
Tomczak's passing not only led to the Bears losing for the first time at home this season and their fourth loss in six games, it opened the door for a quarterback controversy going into the playoffs. When asked if he would talk about Tomczak's play, Coach Mike Ditka said, "I really don't care to."
Since they took eight of their first nine games, the Bears have won only once in regulation the last six weeks, at home against feeble Tampa Bay.
"We have to put the pieces back together," Ditka said. "We've got to go back to the drawing board this week and see where we are as a team. . . . It's sitting on zero right now. We've got to put some gas in the tank before next week."
Tomczak, booed every time he came off the sideline after the first quarter, may be replaced by rookie Peter Tom Willis.
Tomczak, a native Chicagoan, had nothing good to say about the fans, certainly nothing that can be printed.
The only Bears touchdown came two minutes before halftime, when Johnny Bailey tied a club record by returning a punt 95 yards for a touchdown to give Chicago a 10-9 lead.
"It's a good thing he can't hear," Ditka said, "because half the guys were hollering 'Fair catch!' "
Even with that bit of good fortune, the Bears struggled to stay competitive. In the final 1:53 of the half, DeBerg completed seven of 10 passes to set up a 32-yard field goal by Lowery that put Kansas City back on top, 12-10, with eight seconds left.
Tomczak was unable to move the team after Kansas City's Barry Word fumbled at his 39; Ditka would not let Tomczak pass until fourth and five, and that was incomplete.
From there, DeBerg completed six of seven passes, setting up Okoye's three-yard touchdown run for an 18-10 lead with 2:42 to play in the third quarter.
Two scores down, the Bears got a break when the Chiefs' Danta Whitaker had a Chicago punt hit his heel. The Bears recovered, but one of Tomczak's few completions -- a 32-yard flip to tight end Jim Thornton -- ended in a fumble that Kansas City recovered at its 24. Chicago's next possession ended when Tomczak fumbled the snap at his 18.
Last week, after Tomczak threw fairly well against Tampa Bay, Ditka said: "I kind of like him. I think I'll have him over for Christmas dinner." After this forlorn performance, Tomczak might not want to wait for a New Year's invite.
Okoye ran out the clock in the second half after Word, the former Virginia Cavalier, surpassed the 1,000-yard mark. Word carried 18 times for 73 yards and complemented DeBerg's spread-the-wealth passing game. Eight Chiefs caught passes, including running back Todd McNair, who had nine and killed the Bears on third down.
Stephone Paige, with two receptions, passed the 1,000-yard mark, making it the first time the Chiefs have had a 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard receiver in the same season.
The rushing milestone is the latest chapter in a stunning comeback for Word, who was convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and didn't play a down of football last season. He wrote letters to 27 teams -- everybody in the NFL except the New Orleans Saints, who cut him -- asking for a tryout.
"They get better every week," Word said of his offensive linemen. "They are mashing people. . . . It's great. I have a good life."
Kansas City has every reason to feel the same way. Its 11 wins are the most since its 1969 team went 11-3 and won the Super Bowl.
"We're peaking right now, just when you need to," DeBerg said. "I think there are a lot of teams in the playoffs that don't want to play us right now. . . . We're clicking pretty good as an offense. The only thing we weren't doing was getting the ball into the end zone. We had too many opportunities where we were just kicking field goals."
That's not so bad, considering Kansas City held the ball 42 minutes to Chicago's 18. Until today, the Bears led the league in time of possession. The bright side for the Bears was that it kept Tomczak off the field.
The Kansas City defense certainly didn't suffer from the fact that Tomczak's favorite play was to throw at receivers being covered by Albert Lewis, one of the best cornerbacks in the last decade. Lewis, surprised, said he hadn't had that many passes come his way in more than a year.
It was the last regular season home game for Dan Hampton, the defensive tackle who has played through three decades and 10 knee operations. But the fans were too busy booing Tomczak to notice Hampton, except for a warm reception during pregame introductions.
"I can deal with the crowd," insisted Tomczak, who has seen a therapist to help with his confidence. "If this is the worst thing that's going to happen in life, I'll accept it and go on."