Cutler injury not even Bears' biggest issue
Sure, the Bears lost a game against a bad team Sunday that they really had to have going into the week off, considering the games they have against Green Bay, Detroit and Baltimore coming out of the bye.
And, yes, they lost Jay Cutler to a groin injury, Lance Briggs to a shoulder, Charles Tillman to a knee and Brandon Marshall to a wrist.
All while giving up 499 yards and 45 points, including a game-winning drive in the final minutes that went 80 yards in 12 plays and 3:12.
On the other hand, the Bears just moved up in the draft.
Even if you're a glass-half-full type, it was difficult not to see the Bears' 4-2 start getting away from them after 333-pound Chris Baker sacked Cutler, rolled over him and tossed him around like a sack of wet flour.
But backup QB Josh McCown was not the reason the Bears lost 45-41 Sunday.
If anything, the 34-year-old veteran did just about everything he could to keep the Bears in the game, throwing for 204 yards and a touchdown in the second half and leading the Bears on five long drives, good for 3 touchdowns, a field goal and Robbie Gould's first miss of the season.
"He's been around the game a lot in this league and he functioned like a starting quarterback when he stepped in there," said Bears coach Marc Trestman. "He took over the huddle. He took care of the football. He moved the football team.
"It was very chaotic out there. (Washington defensive coordinator) Jim Haslett did a heck of a job mixing his defenses up and I thought Josh handled it very well.''
The Bears lost the game in the first half when the Skins had the ball for 22:01 to 7:59 for the Bears, ran 42 plays to only 17 for the visitors, and collected 249 yards of offense compared to a paltry 46 for the Bears.
The score was only 24-17, but the defense was already gasping for air. Combined with the injury to Briggs, who was playing his best game of the season, the Bears didn't have a prayer of stopping Robert Griffin III, who finished with 298 passing yards and 84 rushing.
"He's the leader of our defense. He's the guy who makes everything go. He makes the calls," Trestman said of Briggs. "You're gonna miss him, but it's 'next man up' and that's how you have to operate in the league. The guys have to be ready to play, and not just play, but play at a high level."
With all that went against the Bears on Sunday, they recovered an onside kick midway through the fourth quarter down by 4 points. It was a play that might have won the game, but the refs ruled Eric Weems offside, a call that seemed questionable at best and invisible on replay.
"We needed to get a possession back," Trestman said. "Their offense was on the field too much."
That really took a toll on a Bears defense that isn't good even when it's not beat up and on the field for more than half the game.
"We're going to go back to work," Trestman said of a defense that's getting worse by the week. "The only way to recover when you don't play as well as you would like is to go back to work.
"Getting healthy over the next few weeks would be a big part of that. You can't make excuses, but it will help. We'll be a fresher team coming out of that break."
Despite the fine work of McCown on Sunday, the Bears need their starting quarterback in the lineup and it remains to be seen whether Cutler can be on the field in Green Bay in two weeks.
"I'm hopeful that it's not too serious," Trestman said. "This bye comes at a great time. He'll have a chance to heal up, as well as a number of our players."
In the meantime, McCown played with confidence and was not shy postgame when speaking about his belief in the 4-3 Bears.
"Everything we want to do as a team," McCown said, "is still in front of us."
Also in front of them is a daunting second-half schedule that could find the Bears fighting to stay above .500 down the stretch.
"We have a long way to go," Trestman admitted. "We haven't put four quarters together yet. We certainly have to get better at all three phases.
"We can make plays and we can compete every week. We have to do things the right way, play disciplined football and take care of the football.
"We have to continue to stay together. I think this team showed today that they're going to stay together. It doesn't make up for not winning the game, certainly, but it's a sign that a backbone is being built for some tough games ahead in the second half."
There is a backbone being built and that may serve the Bears well in seasons to come.
But the way the defense is playing, it may not do much to help them in 2013.
•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.