The glow comes off Bears' McCown
Not even Peyton McBrady could rescue the Bears on Sunday afternoon.
That's sort of the legend that was growing around Josh McNown: That the backup quarterback has performed like a cross between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
However, not even those two combined could have overcome the Bears' myriad penalties and injury-depleted defense on this day.
Let's also concede that McCown — subbing again for injured starter Jay Cutler — exposed his own shortcomings in the Edward Jones Dome during the Rams' 42-21 victory.
On the surface, McCown's numbers were worthy of Manning and Brady. He set a franchise record for completions in a game. He threw for 352 yards. His quarterback rating was 102.4. The Bears established a 36 minutes-to-24 minutes edge in time of possession.
The number that mattered the most, however, was 21 points. They weren't nearly enough in a game that Bears' head coach Marc Trestman said on WBBM-AM was destined “to be a track meet.”
The problem was that McCown averaged a mere 7.5 yards per pass attempt, reflecting his difficulty in making big plays to score or set up scores.
This was McCown's first loss as a starter this season after a pair of victories. He also threw his first interception on his 147th pass attempt, though the game's outcome already was decided.
McCown still appears to run the Bears' offense more efficiently than Cutler does. That has been good enough for me, but Trestman wants long-strike capability and maybe he's right.
Kurt Warner, a former NFL quarterback/current NFL Network analyst, agreed with Trestman on Sunday morning: “As well as Josh has played — and he might be able to manage games better than Jay — I still think Jay gives them a better chance long-term; gives them a better chance to get into the playoffs by making big plays with that big arm.”
So I'm ready to concede that maybe, just maybe, a coach considered a quarterback guru and a former QB on his way to the Hall of Fame ... as strange as this sounds, maybe they know more about quarterback play than I do.
McCown's problem is he is stuck with this Bears team, which can't play defense and at least against the Rams couldn't quit committing penalties.
On the third play of the game the Bears yielded Tavon Austin's 65-yard touchdown run on an end around that became a reverse that befuddled the Bears' defense. The rest of the Rams' rushing damage was inflicted conventionally: Benny Cunningham's 109 yards, a touchdown and 8.4 average along with Zac Stacy's 87 yards, a TD and 7.3 average.
The ground game enabled the Rams to score either a touchdown or field goal on drives of 81, 7, 80, 69, 73 and 80 yards.
An opponent needs big-play capability to counter that sort of persistent ground attack and McCown couldn't provide it on this day. He especially couldn't with the Bears imploding with 10 penalties for 84 yards. Three of those violations nullified a touchdown.
If a team can't stop the run and can't stop breaking the rules, well, it needs a quarterback that can put a lot of points on the scoreboard.
That's pretty much what Trestman has been saying the past month by complimenting Cutler while trying not to insult McCown.
The Bears trailed 14-0 a mere 2:24 into the game, thanks in part to Matt Forte's fumble setting up the Rams' second touchdown. Playing catch-up from that point on was an exercise in futility.
As ugly as this loss was, the Bears' 6-5 record keeps them in the middle of the race for the NFC North title.
So, Cutler or McCown?
It won't matter if the Bears can't contain the opposition's run or their own undisciplined play.