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Bears in better hands with Josh McCown than previous backups

Quarterback Josh McCown talks with coach Marc Trestman during Bears’ game last Sunday against Redskins. | AP

Quarterback Josh McCown talks with coach Marc Trestman during the Bears’ game last Sunday against the Redskins. | AP

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Todd Collins

Year Opp. A-C Yds. TD-Int Rate W-L

’10 at NYG 4-11 36 0-1 8.1 L

’10 vs. Car 6-16 32 0-4 6.2 W

’10 vs. GB* 0-4 0 0-0 39.6 L

Caleb Hanie

Year Opp. A-C Yds. TD-Int Rate W-L

’10 at NYG 3-4 36 0-0 102.1 L

’10 vs. Car 2-3 19 0-0 84.0 W

’10 vs. GB* 13-20 153 1-2 65.2 L

’11 at Oak 18-36 254 2-3 56.9 L

’11 vs. KC 11-24 133 0-3 23.8 L

’11 at Den 12-19 115 0-0 79.9 L

’11 vs. Sea 10-23 111 1-3 33.3 LJosh McCown

Year Opp. A-C Yds. TD-Int Rate W-L

’11 vs. Sea 1-2 12 0-1 29.2 L

’11 at GB 19-28 242 1-2 76.8 L

’11 at Minn 15-25 160 1-1 75.4 W

Jason Campbell

Year Opp. A-C Yds. TD-Int Rate W-L

’12 vs. Hou 11-19 94 0-0 70.9 L

’12 at SF 14-22 107 1-2 52.7 L

’12 at Minn 6-9 64 1-0 124.3 L

TOTALS 145-265 1,568 8-22 47.8

Updated: November 28, 2013 6:50AM

The Bears will rally around Josh McCown, just like they rallied around Jason Campbell last season against the 49ers, Caleb Hanie in 2011 and Todd Collins in 2010.

Those aren’t pleasant memories. Before Jay Cutler’s most recent injury, the Bears were 2-10 in games in which Cutler was injured or didn’t play. The quarterbacks who replaced him combined for a 47.8 passer rating, with eight touchdowns and 22 interceptions in 265 pass attempts.

The losses were painful, particularly to the Packers in the NFC Championship Game after the 2010 season, when Hanie’s heroics were undone by two critical interceptions; during Hanie’s 0-4 stint in 2011; and in a dreadful 32-7 loss to the 49ers with Campbell last season.

The only victories were dubious. Collins ‘‘beat’’ the winless Panthers (0-4, headed for 2-14) in 2010 but played so poorly — four interceptions and a 6.2 passer rating — that he was relieved by Hanie even with a 17-3 lead. In 2011, McCown beat 3-12 Vikings and established a new standard for success among Cutler’s backups: 15-for-25 for 160 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a 75.4 rating.

Not a pretty history, but the Bears are hopeful it’ll be different this time with McCown at quarterback for games against the Packers, Lions and Ravens — and likely more — after Cutler suffered a torn groin muscle that will keep him out at least four weeks.

Their optimism isn’t unwarranted. The Bears have the best offense they’ve had with Cutler at quarterback. Collins, Hanie and Campbell inherited offenses that were 27th, 30th, 17th and 28th in yards and 32nd, 32nd, 19th and 30th in sacks allowed per pass play. McCown is inheriting an offense that is 11th in yards and fifth in sacks allowed per pass play. And second in points scored.

But it was McCown’s performance Sunday against the Redskins in place of the injured Cutler that provided his teammates with the most hope. In a little more than a half, McCown was 14-for-20 for 204 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for a 119.6 rating.

On paper, McCown’s performance was a revelation. In three previous games that Cutler had left with an injury, the Bears averaged 4.4 yards per play with his backup. On Sunday, they averaged 8.8 yards per play with McCown.

‘‘Josh kind of set our minds at ease,’’ guard Matt Slauson said. ‘‘He came in and did an incredible job from the start. So now I don’t think anybody’s thinking about [a drop-off]. We’re just going to execute the same plan.’’

The offensive dynamic might change without Cutler. McCown can’t make the same throws, but he also knows he can’t. That will make him less likely to take some of the chances Cutler does, such as throwing to a double-covered Alshon Jeffery, which led to Brian Orakpo’s 29-yeard interception return for a touchdown against the Redskins.

McCown has better weapons than any previous Cutler backup had: Brandon Marshall (46 receptions, 540 yards, five touchdowns), Jeffery (33, 561, two) and Martellus Bennett (32, 356, four). The Bears’ revamped offensive line has allowed 11 sacks in seven games, a huge improvement over previous seasons when Cutler was injured.

The Bears also have an NFL-low one false start this season, evidence of a discipline that should give the offense a chance, regardless of who is at quarterback.

All in all, it’s a much more manageable situation for McCown. Or it should be.

‘‘We have to do whatever it takes to win,’’ Slauson said. ‘‘A lot of continuity is coming on the offensive side, and that’s really good to see. Because with the weapons we’ve got when the offense is really firing, it’s going to be an incredible thing.’’


Twitter: @MarkPotash

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