Josh McCown won't entertain the notion of becoming the Bears' full-time starter beyond Jay Cutler's return to health.
No need to. As it turns out, McCown's arm worked just fine Sunday in leading the Chicago Bears to a 23-20 overtime victory over the Ravens to stay right in the thick of the fight for the NFC North crown. In just his second start of the season, McCown was 19-of-31 for 216 yards and a touchdown to finish with a passer rating of 92.9.
During the decisive drive in overtime, McCown completed two of three passes for 57 yards to engineer a 60-yard drive spanning seven plays capped by Robbie Gould's game-winning 38-yard field goal. The Bears gained the largest chunk on that drive with 43-yard completion to Martellus Bennett to give Chicago a first down at the Baltimore 22.
"Obviously [Bennett] won the game for us with that," receiver Brandon Marshall said. "It doesn't come down to one play, but that was huge for us. [McCown] has been awesome for us. You can't ask for a better guy to lead the huddle."
Just before the offense took the field in overtime, McCown gathered the team in the huddle and gave them an impassioned speech, telling the players about the situation being one of those "rare opportunities to do some special things." Some of McCown's teammates joked about the quarterback being "geeked up" in the huddle for the final drive.
"[He was like,] 'You're gonna be able to tell your grand kids about this one,'" Bennett said, laughing. 'Finish strong and you're gonna make a play. It's gonna be a story.' I don't know if I want to talk to my grandkids about football."
McCown admits he doesn't "know if I'm talking to them as much as I'm talking to myself" when making such a speech in a key moment. Doing that, McCown said, "puts me at ease" because it reminds the quarterback, 'Hey, Josh, you don't have to press. That's Brandon Marshall right there. That's Roberto Garza. That's Jermon Bushrod. That's Martellus Bennett.' It's just a reminder to myself to try to keep everything calm and allow those guys to work."
That's precisely what McCown did after a rocky start. The Bears moved the ball just 15 yards in their first drive with McCown completing one of two passes, in addition to taking a sack. McCown completed one of two in Chicago's second drive for only 1 yard. Then, at the 4:51 mark, game officials delayed the game due to inclement weather.
The delay lasted 1 hour, 53 minutes. Although it helped the Bears regroup, McCown missed on both of his attempts on Chicago's next drive once play resumed.
McCown completed 10 of 20 passes for 84 yards in the first half with a passer rating of 61.2. Then, in the third quarter, the Bears didn't throw the ball at all because of the windy conditions.
"[Bears coach Marc Trestman] and I got together and talked about it, and then just said, 'Let's be smart with the way we approach this quarter, and if we can find a way to pound the rock a little bit, get through this quarter and let things flip, maybe we can then take our shots,'" McCown said.
Once the Bears switched sides in the fourth quarter where McCown could throw with the wind, the quarterback completed five of six passes for 68 yards and a 14-yard touchdown to Matt Forte on a screen pass. On the play, Baltimore gave the Bears a look they had hoped to see during the week of preparation for Sunday's game. So McCown checked to the screen pass, and Forte did his part by making linebacker Daryl Smith and cornerback Corey Graham miss. He dragged a helmetless James Ihedigbo on the way to the end zone.
"I'm just really proud of the way our football team rallied around Josh today," Trestman said. "The way Josh handled the huddle, took care of the football and did his job, that was important."
Filling in for starter Jay Cutler, McCown has now thrown for 754 yards, completing 60 percent of his passes for five touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 100.0. For McCown, that's how a backup quarterback should perform when the starter is out of commission.
So while it may be tempting to ponder how the Bears might fare with McCown as the full-time starter, that's not something he's even remotely considering.
Does McCown now feel like the starter?
"No. I've said this over and over again. I'm the backup quarterback on this team. The way that I serve my team is to play when the starter is not healthy," McCown said. "Jay's our starting quarterback. There's no doubt about that. Hopefully whenever Jay's healthy, we're still in the position to get everything we want to accomplish done when he takes back over. That's my mindset."