MORRISSEY: Under plenty of heat, Bears keeping their cool
BY RICK MORRISSEY Staff Columnist December 9, 2013 11:14PM
Updated: February 8, 2014 3:23AM
Can someone explain these Bears to me? No, I mean really explain how they are where they are, which is to say tied for first place?
We could dismiss all they’ve accomplished this season by chalking it up to a bad NFC North, a division that has been brought down by the knuckleheaded-ness of the Lions and the absence of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
But that would be unfair to a Bears team that has succeeded because of a backup quarterback and despite a godawful defense. Maybe the best explanation is that while everybody waited for the Bears to fall apart, they didn’t.
I know they’re not that good, you know they’re not that good and I suspect some of their family members know they’re not that good. But they know how to keep their head above water, even as the water turns to ice.
On Monday, it was the Cowboys who found out that this Josh McCown guy, whoever and whatever he used to be, is very good right now. Did he go to some anti-aging clinic? Sell his soul at a crossroads? I don’t know. I just know that he led the Bears to a 45-28 victory at a frigid Soldier Field.
McCown is more than a creation of the offensive talent around him. He is more than Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett. He simply has to be. There are a lot of mediocre quarterbacks who could have screwed this up. McCown hasn’t. He completed 27 of 36 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for a touchdown, which apparently makes him Russell Wilson. Now he’s just showing off.
“You always wonder how it would be if you operated in the right kind of offense with the right players,’’ McCown said. “So for me, it’s just being able to be in the right situation with these guys and this offense and these coaches.’’
As bad and as discombobulated as the defense has looked this season, McCown has looked that good and that in control in relief of an injured Jay Cutler. His pass to Jeffery just before halftime was as pretty as you’ll see. He put it in the right corner of the end zone, where Jeffery rose above defensive backs B.W. Webb and Jeff Heath to give the Bears a 24-14 lead. Cutler couldn’t have done better. Nor could Tom Brady.
No one is saying McCown is either of those guys, but he has made plays over and over again with Cutler sidelined. Nobody could have expected that. I’m not even sure McCown expected it. But, again, a lesser quarterback would have kept the Bears out of contention in the NFC North. He didn’t.
The Bears scored points on each of their first eight possessions. Punting was an abstraction. That’s a far cry from the offensive collapse I envisioned when Cutler went down with a groin injury in Washington. I envisioned a defensive collapse too. I envisioned that correctly.
Those of you pining for the Bears to permanently stick with McCown will be disappointed.
“When Jay’s ready to play, he’ll be playing,’’ coach Marc Trestman said.
The wind chill was -9 at kickoff. It could have been an issue for the Bears. Instead, they scored more points than in any game this season. As I said, somebody explain this team to me.
Maybe it was the influence of Mike Ditka, whose number was retired at halftime. Maybe Da Coach was the cold wind beneath the Bears’ wings. I don’t know.
“We have a tremendous locker room of guys who really do have a sense of brotherly love and who work together, don’t point fingers and don’t worry about what’s going on outside the building,’’ Trestman said.
This is as bad a Bears’ run defense as I’ve seen, and the damnedest thing about it is that it hasn’t cost the team as much as it should. Some of that has to do with a self-destructive Lions team, but a lot of it has to do with McCown and the offense. You score 45 points, you’re going to beat everybody except the Broncos.
The Bears and Detroit are tied at 7-6. The Lions own the tiebreaker, but the whole thing feels tenuous right now. The Bears can’t be dismissed, even if logic, having watched this defense all season, wants to. So I won’t.