The Chicago Bears will get their starting quarterback back
Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, but they can thank their
backup for making sure they didn’t fall out of the playoff
Josh McCown kept the Bears afloat with three wins in five
starts, but he’ll hand the reins back to Jay Cutler as the Bears
hope to grab at least temporary control of the NFC North and put
the pressure on Detroit.
Cutler went through a full practice on Thursday after working
out with the receivers following a walkthrough, and got the green
light to start this week.
Coach Marc Trestman made clear after Monday’s 45-28 home win
over Dallas that Cutler would be the starter when healthy, despite
McCown’s strong play.
“Josh has done exactly what we’ve asked him to do,” Trestman
told the team’s official website. “He’s performed very, very well
as a backup, and he understands his role.”
The Bears (7-6) are tied for the division lead with the Lions,
who play Monday night against Baltimore. Chicago has little room
for error, with Detroit holding the head-to-head tiebreaker and the
Bears two games back for a wild-card spot.
After consecutive losses at St. Louis and Minnesota, McCown
orchestrated a near must-win with 348 yards passing, four touchdown
passes, one rushing score and no interceptions against the
His 109.8 rating ranks third in the league behind Nick Foles and
Peyton Manning. Cutler is 12th at 88.4, and there have been
questions as to whether the 34-year-old McCown is the better fit
for Trestman’s system.
“You always wonder how it would be if you operate in the right
kind of offense with the right kind of players and so on and so
forth,” McCown said. “With me, it’s just about being in the right
situation now with these guys, with this offense and with these
coaches, and allowing me to play within the system with the guys
that are around me.”
As Cutler said Thursday, though, he’s not paying attention to
any potential controversy that’s come out of McCown’s strong
“There is not a debate in this building, so that is kind of
where my concern lies,” Cutler said.
Some of the credit for McCown’s success can be attributed to
Alshon Jeffery, who has 17 catches for 333 yards and three
touchdowns in the last two games to give Chicago another dangerous
option in the passing game beside Brandon Marshall.
After the big day against Dallas, the Bears are second in the
league with 28.3 points per game.
The defense, however, will again be without linebacker Lance
Briggs, who participated in practice on a limited basis Thursday
but will miss at least one more game after fracturing his shoulder
The Bears rank last in the league against the run at 157.0 yards
per game and 27th in overall defense at 381.5.
That might prove not to be a big problem against the Browns
(4-9), who rank 28th in rushing offense at 84.3 yards.
Cleveland has dropped seven of eight, including four in a row to
ensure its sixth straight losing season. It’s coming off a stunning
27-26 loss at New England on Sunday, blowing a 12-point lead in the
“Anything can happen in a game and it did yesterday,” coach Rob
Chudzinski said Monday. “We have to make the plays and take
advantage of the opportunities we have to win those kind of
The Browns have lost their last two by a combined five
“They’re so close, games that we could’ve won, we should’ve won
just coming down to the last few seconds,” receiver Josh Gordon
said. “Teams are scoring points with a few seconds or maybe like a
minute left in the game. It hurts to watch everything you worked
hard for just crumble down so quickly.”
Gordon has 36 catches for 774 yards and five touchdowns during
the skid, and his 1,400 receiving yards lead the NFL.
Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden practiced Wednesday for the
first time since sustaining a concussion Dec. 1, though Chudzinski
said he’s uncertain of whether Weeden can back up Jason
The Bears have lost four straight in Cleveland, though they won
their last meeting with the Browns 30-6 in Chicago on Nov. 1,