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MORRISSEY: Bears deserve tip of hat for their resilience

Quarterback Josh McCown has turned out be perfect replacement while Jay Cutler recovers from an ankle injury. | AP

Quarterback Josh McCown has turned out to be the perfect replacement while Jay Cutler recovers from an ankle injury. | AP

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Updated: November 23, 2013 10:11PM



Which of the following is most likely to be true Sunday:

1. Given all the buildup to the Kyle Long-Chris Long meeting in St. Louis, some news outlet will have live team coverage from Howie Long’s suite at the Edward Jones Dome. Televised sonogram pictures of the Hall of Famer’s offspring can’t be ruled out.

2. Bears coach Marc Trestman will sit on the locker-room floor during halftime and play Candy Land with his players.

3. The game between the Bears and Rams will be very close.

If you guessed No. 3, you win a prize, though I can’t dismiss the possibility of No. 1 happening. And, for all I know, Trestman has a thing for the Gumdrop Mountains.

The Bears have been amazing this season. There, I said it. A-ma-zing. I keep waiting for the roof to fall in on them, and maybe it will with the next two games taking place in domed stadiums. But the Bears haven’t collapsed yet, despite a shaky defense and a backup quarterback.

During the weather delay last week against the Ravens, Trestman played catch with receiver Brandon Marshall in the locker room and sat on the floor for a chat with cornerback Tim Jennings. The Bears trailed 10-0 before the delay and ended up winning 23-20. A lot of people saw meaning in the coach’s loosey-goosey, unorthodox approach. I saw a lot of meaning in the tight finish.

Besides the team’s 6-4 record and share of first place in the NFC North with the Lions, the most remarkable thing about the season has been the Bears’ ability to keep scores close. Their games have been settled by an average of 5.9 points, the lowest margin in the NFL. Only one of those games, the Lions’ 40-32 victory in Week 4, was more lopsided than the score indicated. By comparison, the Packers’ games have been decided by an average of 10.9 points and the Lions’ by 7.2 points. If you’re looking for how a 10-1 team does it, the Seahawks’ games have been decided by a 12.6-point margin.

‘‘We know where we are, we know where we’re going,’’ Trestman said.

Possibly into overtime.

Close games might not be the best things for your nerves, but they’re the mark of a team that doesn’t fall apart at the first hint of trouble. That’s impressive, given that the Bears are using many second-stringers (and some third-stringers) because of injuries. The whole idea of ‘‘next man up’’ makes for a nice battle cry, but starters are starters for a reason: They’re better than the backups. If this weren’t the case, everybody would be earning the same amount of money. The last I heard, Jay Cutler was making $8.4 million in base salary this season, while his backup, Josh McCown, was making $840,000.

At some point, something has to give with these Bears, doesn’t it? The house of cards has to end up looking like a game of 52-card pickup, right? I think we have enough evidence to say that, no, it doesn’t. McCown has turned out to be the perfect replacement as Cutler recovers from an ankle injury.

Much of the Bears’ success can be attributed to Trestman’s game-planning and McCown’s ability to learn from his 10 seasons in the NFL. The coach hasn’t put his quarterback in many risky situations, and McCown seems almost allergic to making mistakes. It also helps when your targets are Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte.

Some of the credit goes to general manager Phil Emery, who has seen some of his ‘‘lesser’’ decisions become contributors. Defensive lineman David Bass and nickel back Isaiah Frey, for example.

It also helps that the Bears have faced several struggling quarterbacks. The Giants’ Eli Manning wasn’t playing well when they faced him in Week 6. Three weeks later, the Bears knocked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers out of the game and had their way with his replacement, Seneca Wallace. Last week, they faced Joe Flacco, who isn’t close to being what he was last season for the Super Bowl champion Ravens.

Now Kellen Clemens starts at quarterback for the Rams in place of Sam Bradford, who is out for
the season.

In case you haven’t heard, Bears guard Kyle Long and Rams defensive end Chris Long are brothers, and they will play against each other Sunday, though it’s unclear how often they’ll meet on the field.

The two are very close, we’re told, sort of like a one-point game.



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