The Sports Xchange
CHICAGO - If the Chicago Bears decide Josh McCown's final start of the season was Monday's 45-28 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, the 34-year-old backup insists he is ready to hand the offense back to starting quarterback Jay Cutler.
"If Jay's healthy, Jay should be the starting quarterback," McCown said. "For me, it's week to week. I'm at practice so I see his progress and monitor that. I understand every week that if my number is called, I've got to be ready to go."
McCown passed for 348 yards, four touchdowns and rushed for another score and the Bears scored on all eight possessions before their game-ending kneeldown. The Bears (7-6) are tied with the Detroit Lions atop the NFC North entering Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns.
"There's no change in the plan. We'll see where Jay is this week. He'll have to be released by the doctors," Bears coach Marc Trestman said of the stated plan to start Cutler when he's cleared medically. "I thought (McCown) played an excellent game. We moved the ball, he completed passes. Josh ran around, made some plays. I think it all starts with the offensive line. They kept him clean."
It was the fifth time this season the Cowboys allowed more than 345 passing yards.
Robbie Gould's third field goal of the game came with 3:47 left in the game to put the Bears ahead by 24 and brought the Cowboys' second-team offense on the field for a late touchdown by running back Joseph Randle.
Dallas used running back DeMarco Murray as a weapon in the first half, but couldn't stay close enough to attack the NFL's worst run defense in the second half. Murray had 20 carries for 102 yards, the first time he cleared those totals since Sept. 22 against the St. Louis Rams (26-175).
Quarterback Tony Romo threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Cole Beasley with 10:52 remaining in the game and the Cowboys cut the Bears lead in half, 42-21.
"It became where we had to match serve, and we couldn't do that," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said.
Romo finished 11 of 20 for 104 yards with three touchdowns. He was sacked twice.
The Cowboys (7-6) fell to 2-5 on the road and are one game behind the Philadelphia Eagles (8-5) in the NFC East. Dallas hosts Green Bay on Sunday and ends the season with a game against the Eagles.
"It feels like we'll have to win out," Romo said.
Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery caught five passes for 84 yards and a touchdown, all in the first half, and receiver Brandon Marshall had six receptions for 100 yards.
The Bears scored 36 seconds into the fourth quarter on a swing pass to running back Michael Bush. Chicago had jumped ahead 35-14 with 2:30 remaining in the third quarter. With Cowboys Pro Bowl middle linebacker Sean Lee on the sideline with a neck injury, the Bears marched 90 yards on a run-dominated drive capped by a 4-yard touchdown pass from McCown to running back Matt Forte with 2:20 left in the third quarter.
McCown, nearly intercepted twice and picked once on a play overturned by defensive holding on the third-quarter touchdown drive, hit Marshall for the two-point conversion.
The journeyman said he isn't surprised by his success. He has a 13-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 109.8 passer rating.
"You always wonder how it would be if you operated in the right offense with the right kind of players," McCown said, crediting his supporting cast.
Chicago led 24-14 after a fast-paced first half that included 20 total plays of 10-plus yards against overmatched defenses.
McCown was 18 of 23 for 222 yards and a 7-yard rushing touchdown in the first half.
The highlight-reel play was a leaping grab by Jeffery over cornerback B.W. Webb in the back of the end zone for a 25-yard score with 10 seconds to go in the second quarter. Trestman said the second-quarter grab was a key to the game.
"It's a play that we talk about all the time," McCown said. "You want to put a ball where a guy can catch it but not put the ball in jeopardy, so to speak. My part was relatively easy. His part was unreal."
After riding Murray for 99 yards on 13 carries in the first 24 minutes of the game, the Cowboys tied the game at 14 on a play-action pass from Romo to tight end Jason Witten. Romo hit receiver Dez Bryant for a 2-yard touchdown on the first possession of the game.
Forte finished with 102 yards on 20 carries.
NOTES: The Bears retired the jersey number (89) of former TE Mike Ditka, who played for the Cowboys and Bears and was a five-time Pro Bowl pick before spending 12 years as head coach in Chicago. Ditka was honored at halftime and is the 14th player to have his number retired by the franchise. ... Cowboys MLB Sean Lee, in his return from a two-game absence with a hamstring injury, left the game on the first possession of the third quarter with a neck injury. He returned briefly on the next possession before being ruled out for the game. Return man Dwayne Harris (hamstring) also left in the third quarter and did not return. ... Bears QB Jay Cutler was inactive for the fifth time in six games. LB Lance Briggs, who fractured his shoulder Oct. 20, was also inactive. ... The Cowboys were without two starters: CB Morris Claiborne and LB Justin Durant were inactive with hamstring injuries. ... Temperature at kickoff was 8 degrees with a wind-chill factor of minus-9 and wind gusts of 23 mph. "I still can't feel my toes," McCown said an hour after the game.