WASHINGTON -- It's not the easiest task for a backup quarterback to step into an NFL game without running a first-team play in practice all week.
But Josh McCown did it well enough Sunday to get the Bears a victory -- if only his defense had made a few tackles.
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In fact, he played well enough the last 40 minutes of a 45-41 loss to Washington at FedEx Field that it's not a reach to suggest he ran the offense better than starter Jay Cutler did prior to leaving in the first half with a groin injury.
"I thought we played more the type of offense we need to play on a regular basis, on a consistent basis," Bears coach Marc Trestman said of the second half.
McCown completed 14 of 20 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown with a passer rating of 119.6. McCown guided the Bears to 24 second-half points after Cutler's injury on a sack with 9:47 left before intermission. And he prepared to do it last week by studying in the classroom, running the scout team and play-acting -- taking snaps on the side from backup center Taylor Boggs and mimicking everything Jay Cutler did on plays, except pass it or hand it off.
Practice reps? Who needs them.
McCown hadn't played in a real game since the 2011 season finale.
"I wish I could say there was some (reps), because it would sound better," McCown said. "But there's none. I mean, that's just how it is. And that's uniform throughout the league.
"I've been in a lot of places and reps are at a premium when you're carrying the volume of offense that we carry."
McCown only got on the field in the first half for 3 plays, but in the second half he led TD drives of 80, 74 and 65 yards, a march to a field goal and another to a missed 34-yard Robbie Gould field-goal try.
McCown was sharp enough to find tight end Martellus Bennett for a 7-yard, play-action, go-ahead TD pass with 3:57 remaining in the game. He completed a 35-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery, a 28-yarder to Brandon Marshall and had no timing problem with receivers.
"We know the type of player he is," wide receiver Earl Bennett said. "Plus he's been here for a couple years now, so we've played with him in previous games. "We've got to rally beind him like we did today and make plays."
McCown had the benefit of something Cutler did not: a running game. Matt Forte had run for 9 yards on 4 carries the first half, but added 82 yards on 12 rushes the second half, including a 50-yard score and a 6-yard TD run.
"We just decided we were going to stay with the plan and run the plays that we had put in during the week, the runs and passes," Trestman said. "We knew we had to get some run plays going. We knew we had to do that to keep our defense off the field and RG3 (Redskins QB Robert Griffin III) off the field."
Coaches preferred that McCown keep the running duties in Forte's hands. McCown scrambled four times for 33 yards, each time begging the question: Who quarterbacks if he doesn't get up from a hit?
The answer was Earl Bennett. McCown realized this after coaches and teammates suggested sliding might be in order.
"I'm like, 'oh yeah, there's nobody else,'" McCown said. "It's hard to manage that when you're running, to think about Earl and that there's nobody else. But it was a good reminder for me and I tried to slide the rest of the time."
So if McCown can make the offense click this way, why shouldn't he quarterback in two weeks in Green Bay even if Cutler is healthy?
"Have you seen him throw?" McCown said of Cutler. "Obviously there's a difference with the velocity which the ball travels when Jay throws and when I throw it. So there's a difference in the ways that we have to play the game and different ways that we see the game.
"There's a little bit of a different game because he has the capacity to push the ball down the field with his arm strength on some throws that, quite frankly, they don't enter my mind to do."