- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Every morning Josh McCown wakes up, the quarterback spends a few moments reflecting on his journey to Chicago.
McCown served as an assistant coach at Marvin Ridge High School in 2011 and 2012, and twice the Bears pulled him away to become a backup quarterback to Jay Cutler, who is out again for this week's matchup against the Green Bay Packers with a torn groin muscle. In his first start for Chicago, in 2011, McCown led the club to 21 points -- the most the Bears have scored during Cutler’s tenure against Green Bay -- in a 35-21 loss at Lambeau Field.
McCown gets the opportunity Monday night to atone for that defeat.
“I try to reflect on that every day, to be honest with you,” McCown said. “In my situation, I hate the circumstances. But it’s my opportunity to serve my team. I’m very thankful to have this chance. I just remember walking out of that tunnel in Lambeau and it’s really narrow there, and just kind of being the first of many reflections, about, ‘Man, just last week I was jogging out on the field against Charlotte Catholic to coach high school kids,’ or six weeks ago, or whenever I got there. So I remember having that thought. I just remember getting into the game and feeling like, ‘Man, this is a football game. It’s just another game.’”
McCown hopes a similar feeling comes over him against the Packers, but with different results. The Bears currently hold the No. 3 spot in what could become a tight NFC North race, and a loss would be damaging to the club’s postseason prospects. Following the matchup at Green Bay, the Bears host the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens in consecutive weeks, and there’s still uncertainty regarding the timeframe for Cutler’s return.
The coaching staff and general manager Phil Emery want to abide by the four-week minimum prescribed by the doctors for Cutler’s return, but the quarterback said the goal is to return sooner. Receiver Brandon Marshall on Thursday said he’s “not ruling out Green Bay” for Cutler’s return, which is doubtful.
In the meantime, McCown has prepared diligently. Despite virtually no prep time going into the game against the Washington Redskins on Oct. 20, McCown entered in the second quarter and passed for 204 yards and a touchdown, good for a passer rating of 119.6. He's carried that hot hand into this week's practices, according to Bears coach Marc Trestman.
“Josh was very efficient today, moving the ball around and throwing the football, mixing things up between the guys,” Trestman said.
The key is for the work in practice to transfer to Monday’s game. Counting the postseason, the Bears have lost six in a row to the Packers. A Chicago victory could force a three-way tie atop the division.
Given how prolific Green Bay’s offense has been recently, McCown says it’s important to not try to keep up with Aaron Rodgers in terms of scoring points.
“It’s always nice coming off a bye week to have a little bit extra time, especially when you’re transitioning to playing from backing up,” McCown said. “I would say it’s just about playing each play and not getting caught up in everything else. You just play that play in front of you. You can only score one touchdown at a time. There’s not one pass that’s going to create 21 points, and there’s not one play that’s going to eat up eight minutes of the clock. You just have to play one play at a time and play efficient football and not get caught up in that. You’re right, it’s overwhelming. Whether Clay [Matthews] is out there or not, they’re a very good defense. They fly around, and you know that Aaron Rodgers is on the other side. There can be a sense of ‘Man, how are we going to do this?’ But they have lost games, people have beaten them. It’s just taking it a play at a time and focusing on what you have to do [on] that play.”