OAKLAND, Calif. — If you're looking for a positive following the first NFL start by Caleb Hanie, it wasn't a meltdown like the Bears have seen before when they've turned to reserve quarterbacks.
It wasn't Todd Collins. Not even close. It wasn't Craig Krenzel — and Krenzel won his first three starts in 2004. But it also wasn't good enough to extend a winning streak that started after the bad loss at Detroit on Oct. 10.
If the Bears (7-4) search for building blocks and not moral victories, they should be able to weather the storm until Jay Cutler returns from surgery to repair his fractured right thumb. Until then, they need Hanie to protect the ball better, a problem that derailed them in a 25-20 loss to the AFC West-leading Raiders Sunday at O.co Coliseum.
The Bears, Lions and Falcons share the same record in the NFC wild-card race, with the Saints (7-3) hosting the Giants (6-4) Monday night.
"I'm not thinking about being a playoff team," linebacker Lance Briggs said. "I'm thinking about being a championship team. This is a minor setback."
Hanie completed 18 of 36 passes for 254 yards and the Bears totaled a season-best 401 yards of offense, but three first-half interceptions led to two of Sebastian Janikowski's franchise-record six field goals, and the six points accounting for the difference in the game.
Right tackle Lance Louis raced more than 70 yards to bring down Oakland linebacker Kamerion Wimbley after he intercepted a screen to Kellen Davis that was tipped by Aaron Curry right before halftime. It prevented a touchdown as the defense was stout in the red zone.
But Louis Murphy beat Tim Jennings' press coverage for a 47-yard gain to the Bears' 3-yard line with less than four minutes to play. Michael Bush rumbled into the end zone on the next play to give Oakland (7-4) a 25-13 lead.
Hanie responded with an 81-yard bomb to Johnny Knox, setting up his 9-yard touchdown pass to Davis. The Bears failed to recover the onside kick and the game ended when Hanie was called for intentional grounding on his own 46-yard line with four seconds remaining.
"Not good," said Hanie, who hit Knox for a 29-yard touchdown in the second quarter in the face of an all-out blitz. "When you have that many turnovers you're not going to win many games.
"After the first quarter, those couple interceptions, I felt really comfortable in there, so we can build on all of that. It's not just that deep ball to Johnny that gives you momentum, it's all the other stuff. We had opportunities to move the ball and that gives you the confidence."
"We would like to have a couple plays back, but he gave us an opportunity to win at the end, on the road," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We can build off of this performance."
The Bears totaled 172 yards on the ground, their third-best output of the season, as Marion Barber (10 carries, 63 yards), Matt Forte (12-59) and Hanie (5-50) all made big plays. Hanie didn't look rattled in the pocket and was confident as he went through his progressions.
Cutler, who was on the Bears' sideline, did more than help read pictures.
"Jay was great, he was with me the whole time, all along the way, just calming me down and helping me out as much as he could," Hanie said. "At one point we just started talking at random about something, and I think that just kind of got my mind off things and felt calm after that, so he was a good presence."
But as much as the Bears moved the ball, they were still disjointed at times and it goes to show how the margin for error is reduced without Cutler, who the Bears are hoping to have back before the regular season ends.
"(Even) with Jay, there is no margin for error," defensive end Israel Idonije said. "You gotta show up, you gotta play, you gotta take the ball away. This defense is predicated on that."
The Bears got one interception when Corey Graham snared a deflection from Brandon Meriweather for his third pick in as many games. But the Raiders benefited greatly from an average starting field position of their own 40-yard line and Carson Palmer threw for 301 yards, completing five passes to fullback Marcel Reece for 92 yards.
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