The Chicago Bears were in a tailspin, their playoff hopes getting blown around as if caught in the brutal, whipping winds off Lake Michigan.
Backup quarterback Josh McCown rescued them, maybe saved their season.
His reward? A demotion.
McCown returns to a reserve role today behind starter Jay Cutler as the Bears (7-6), coming off a win over Dallas on Monday, visit the Browns (4-9). Cleveland is still smarting after a final-minutes collapse — aided by some questionable officiating — last Sunday in New England and a 27-26 gut-wrenching loss to the Patriots.
Cutler missed the past four games with a severely sprained left ankle, but was cleared to play on Thursday and will be back in the lineup. All McCown did while filling in was pass for a career-high 348 yards and throw four touchdown passes against the Cowboys; post the league’s third-highest QB rating in seven starts; and guide the Bears back into contention in the NFC North.
Bears coach Marc Trestman made it very clear for weeks that when Cutler was healthy, he’ll play. That time has come.
“Josh has done exactly what we’ve asked him to do, he’s performed very, very well as a backup and he understands his role,” Trestman said.
Cutler will have to shake off any rust against a defense itching to rebound after failing to close out games the past two weeks.
“We definitely feel like we’ve got a lot to prove,” said linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. “We felt like we played pretty good for three quarters and then that last five minutes of the game it just swung back and forth. We’ve got to do a better job of when we have a lead, we’ve got to hold onto it and not give it up.”
As the Bears welcome back Cutler, the Browns can only hope quarterback Jason Campbell can deliver a performance close to the one he pulled off against Bill Belichick’s defense.
Campbell, who spent last season as a backup with Chicago, passed for a career-high 391 yards and three TDs last week.