It’s never an easy thing to overcome when a team’s starting quarterback goes down with an injury, but for the Chicago Bears on Sunday, their offense was still able to function at a decent level for several reasons.
The first and most important of those performances belonged to back-up quarterback Josh McCown, who showed the value of careful preparation when he came into the game in the second quarter when Jay Cutler went down with a torn muscle in his groin. McCown was efficient, going 14-20 for 204 yards, a touchdown, and no interceptions for the Bears, and was able to run effectively from the pocket while under duress, picking up 33 rushing yards in the process.
Granted, it’s always tough for an opposing defense to face a back-up quarterback when they haven’t gotten a chance to study film on them, but the truth in this case is that McCown ran the offense in a very similar fashion to the way that Cutler did, and that’s a testament not only to his ability but also to head coach Marc Trestman being able to craft a good offensive plan that a quarterback can execute even if he hasn’t been given first team reps to get used to it.
Phil Emery also deserves a good deal of credit for McCown’s performance Sunday. After all, a quarterback is only as good as the offensive weapons he has to work with, and McCown had some excellent bullets in the chamber. Matt Forte rushed for 91 yards and three touchdowns in the game. Alshon Jeffery had only four catches, but ran them for 105 yards in total. Brandon Marshall had six catches on the day for 75 yards.
All of those performances were facilitated in part by McCown, but the fact of the matter is that there is no way that McCown could have had the kind of success he did without those players having high quality days. It’s likely that if this injury had occurred two years ago, like it did when Cutler broke his thumb and missed the remainder of the season, that McCown would have struggled mightily in throwing the ball to guys like Kellen Davis, Roy Williams, and Devin Hester.
Going up against the Green Bay Packers in two weeks will be more of a test for the Bears than going up against a Washington defense that didn’t have the ability to prepare to face McCown, but odds are that the new Bears quarterback will be able to be at least serviceable, if not solid, against the Bears’ arch rivals. He clearly is comfortable in the offense, and there are a lot of people responsible for that smooth transition.