Josh McCown impressive in Bears debut

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
12:43
AM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Josh McCown avoided pondering Sunday’s postgame buzz about what could have been had he become the Chicago Bears' starting quarterback sooner.

McCown passed for 242 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions to lead the Bears to a season-high 441 yards on offense in a 35-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Naturally, questions arose as to whether McCown could’ve sparked such offensive production weeks ago.

[+] EnlargeJosh McCown
AP Photo/Jeffrey PhelpsJosh McCown led the Bears to a season-high 441 yards on offense in a loss to the Packers on Sunday.
“You know, it’s hard,” McCown said. “I mean, that’s hypothetical. All I know is what I had here; right here, this night. I don’t want to speculate on that. I just know my number was called tonight, and I went out and played as hard as I could. The bottom line is we still came up short.”

A nine-year veteran, McCown started his first game in four years on Sunday, and early on it appeared the team looked to take pressure off the quarterback by relying on the rushing attack. Kahlil Bell ran the ball six times before the Bears ever called a pass play.

When they did, McCown responded with a 17-yard completion to Roy Williams. McCown hit 2 of 3 for 29 yards in that drive, which ended on a missed 49-yard field goal by Robbie Gould with 4:16 left in the quarter.

“He played hard,” Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said. “He moved us down the field. I was impressed with the way he did. It’s a tough situation to be in with our defense [which gave up five touchdown passes] playing the way we played, getting behind like that. He just kept battling.”

McCown completed 6 of 9 for 81 yards in the first half as the Bears went into intermission behind 14-3. Receiving the kickoff to start the second half, the Bears handed the ball off to Bell three times for 14 yards.

Then McCown went to work.

“We’re playing against the Super Bowl champs [in a] nationally-televised game,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “There’s a lot of pressure, if you let it [get to you]. And he didn’t.”

McCown scrambled for a 7-yard gain around left end before firing a dart to Earl Bennett for a 49-yard gain to the Green Bay 1. The Bears scored on the next play when Bell fumbled in the end zone with Edwin Williams recovering to pull the Bears to within 4 after Gould’s extra-point kick.
“He brought a lot of energy to the huddle,” said center Roberto Garza, “a lot of fight as you all saw.”

The Bears appeared to seize some momentum with the score, but the Packers quickly responded with a 55-yard bomb from Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson.

McCown managed to move the Bears down the field for only one more TD, a 1-yard pass to Kellen Davis to cap a 12-play drive, before running the ball in for the two-point conversion that made the score 35-18.

“When you’re playing a ballclub like Green Bay and a quarterback like Aaron, who’s not going to blink, you can’t either,” McCown said. “It’s a tough assignment, but you’ve got to find a way to pull it off.”

McCown couldn’t, but that’s not to say he didn’t open eyes within the organization, similar to what Caleb Hanie did last season in the NFC title game when he filled in for Jay Cutler against the Green Bay Packers. Smith said he wasn’t surprised with McCown’s performance.

It’s expected the Bears will close the regular season Sunday on the road at Minnesota with McCown as the starter.

“Josh McCown did a heck of a job of coming in and just leading our offense, making throws when he had to,” Smith said. “He’s a veteran and he knew the offense. [He] is a mature guy, and felt comfortable coming into the game. But we needed to see it, and it was good to see.”

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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