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Chiefs claim Kyle Orton, hang on for dear life in AFC West

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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It won't fix everything that ails them, but the Kansas City Chiefs team that appeared to be very much on life support when they were hammered 34-3 by the New England Patriots on Monday night got a little breath of life on Wednesday by making a waiver claim for recently released former Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton. According to reports, the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys also put in waiver claims, but the Chiefs had the upper hand as the team with the lowest current number of wins.

At 4-6, the Chiefs are tied with the San Diego Chargers for the worst record in the AFC West, but they're far from out of it if they can turn things around — they're just two games behind the Oakland Raiders and one behind the Broncos.

[ Related: If Elway still isn't sold on Tebow, why did Broncos let Orton go? ]

It was thought by most that Orton would return to Chicago, where he spent the first four years of his career and helped the Bears attain a 21-12 record when he was the starter. The Bears recently lost quarterback Jay Cutler for at least several weeks to a broken thumb on his throwing hand. But it was the need of the Chiefs, who recently lost Matt Cassel for the season, that won out. As a result, they'll pick up the remainder of Orton's contract, and the $2.5 million the Broncos would have owed him. The Bears signed veteran Josh McCown to back up Caleb Hanie.

It's not known when Orton will take the reins in Todd Haley's offense, but the Chiefs face off against the Bears on Sunday, Dec. 4, at Soldier Field.

Orton threw for more than 3,600 yards in 2009 and 2010 for Josh McDaniels in Denver as Cutler's replacement — the two were traded for each other — but when new team president John Elway and head coach John Fox came in for the 2011 season, things changed drastically for the veteran. The fan uproar for the increased presence of second-year quarterback Tim Tebow may not have been a huge consideration for the team, but Orton's increasingly declining performance was certainly an issue.

Starting out reasonably strong in the season opener against the Oakland Raiders and the season's second game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Orton started going downhill in a two-interception performance against the Tennessee Titans in Week 3. Three more picks the next week against the Green Bay Packers and a short but subpar outing against the San Diego Chargers sealed his fate, and Tebow took over. The Broncos were 1-4 in games started by Orton, and they've lost just one game with Tebow at the helm.

"I spoke with Kyle earlier today and thanked him for everything he did for the Broncos," Fox said after Orton was released on Tuesday. "He was a true professional throughout this season. I've got a great deal of respect for him as both a player and as a person. This was the right decision for our football team. We feel good about our quarterback group, and this gives Kyle an opportunity to help another team and showcase his talents."

As for the Chiefs, they had apparently seen quite enough of Tyler Palko, who started in Cassel's place against the Patriots and did little of substance — he completed 25 passes in 38 attempts for 236 yards and three interceptions.

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