When Jay Cutler went down in the second quarter against against the Redskins in Week 7, it seemed like the Bears were doomed if their starting quarterback was going to miss any significant amount of time. Health is probably the most important factor for success in a league with as much parity as the NFL, and the Bears had seen this movie before. Without Cutler, the village is set on fire and citizens are advised to head for the hills. It gets ugly.
Take 2011, for example. The Bears were rolling, off to a 7-3 start, when Johnny Knox slipped coming out of his break and a San Diego Chargers defensive back intercepted Cutler. Cutler chased him down, but in the process broke his thumb. He'd miss the rest of the season. There was initially hope for backup Caleb Hanie following a respectable showing in the 2010 NFC title game after Cutler sprained his MCL. That optimism was wrong and anyone who believed it should feel bad. Hanie was terrible, the Bears went 0-4 in games he started and wound up missing the playoffs.
That's probably what should have happened again this year, especially when the Bears also lost Lance Briggs -- the best player on an otherwise sieve-like defense -- in the same game as Cutler.
This Bears team didn't even have the luxury of a big head start when Jay Cutty got hurt. They were 4-2 and already losing to Washington when Josh McCown replaced Chicago's high school bully of a quarterback. But McCown looked great in that wild loss to the 'Skins, and everything that has happened since has only been a continuation of all the crazy shit that went down in that second half at FedEx Field.
The win over the Packers in Lambeau was completely unbelievable. The next game, a loss to the Lions -- when Cutler hurt his ankle late in the first half, but wasn't pulled until the final possession when McCown led a touchdown drive and came within a two-point conversion of sending it to OT -- was just stressful.
But last week's win against the Ravens, played in what was close to a biblical storm, was something else entirely. That was the most ridiculous game of them all.
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The weather was supposed to be bad on Sunday, but I don't think anyone realized how bad. That's certainly the case for the Bears and Ravens and the 60,000 people who showed up to watch them. The Bears were already down 10-0 by the time the conditions got so unhinged that the game had to be postponed.
This is what the local news was showing while the game was on break. Chicago looked like a goddamn Lord of the Rings movie:
Not much can halt the oversized corporate momentum of the NFL, but an entire region covered in volcanoes will do the trick.
Imagine being at that game. Unsurprisingly, things got rowdy as fans were forced into the concourses, which are simply way too small to accommodate that many people. It was a tight fit:
Just a bit crowded... https://t.co/p5Ry4u2hlM— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) November 17, 2013
The only reasonable thing to do in that situation is get loaded, which is exactly what everyone did. Soldier Field actually had to stop selling beer because everyone was getting so wasted. Some bozo even ran on the field, because, of course, that's what happened.
The delay ended up being seven minutes short of two hours before they started playing football again. Because Chicago loves the Bears more than it loves anything, most of the people at the game stayed all the way through. As you might imagine with a crowd of wet and uncomfortable drunks, things got silly in the stands once the game began.
A friend of mine was at the game and gave this report from the scene:
There's a railing right above this section that fans will often stand by and watch the game. Fans sitting below this railing started yelling and screaming to security that beer/food was getting spilled on them, and then some girl claimed a guy peed down on them from above. I didn't see that, and I honestly don't know how much of the spillage was due to the wind or if it was deliberate. But people were getting PISSED, and at one point, people from the section below started throwing stuff back up at the rail. Security FINALLY got things settled and the people were cleared from that railing.
All the while, a football game was being played again on a field that about 10 percent grass and 90 percent mud. That didn't stop Josh Treadwell McCown, who's basically playing like a movie character at this point. After almost 100 years of terrible Bears starting quarterbacks and backups who seem like they're playing blindfolded, McCown's performance has been inconceivable. This is a 34-year-old who was coaching high school football in Charlotte when the Bears called. This is a guy who hadn't started a game since 2008.
At this point, he might be one of the 10 best quarterbacks in Bears history. If you think that's an overstatement after 2.75 games, you've never watched Bears quarterbacks. Consider yourself #blessed.
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The end of the Ravens game was such a blur. The Bears seemed like they stopped Baltimore on their final drive until Zach Bowman was flagged for a horsecollar tackle that gave Flacco and friends a first down. Dallas Clark converted another Ravens fourth down with a one-handed catch that would have been more acceptable if this was 2005. Then the defense somehow kept the Ravens out of the end zone on a goal line stand that seemed like it would happen one out of 50 times.
In overtime, all it took was a 43-yard pass from McCown to The Black Unicorn himself Martellus Bennett and a Robbie Gould field goal that just sneaked in to give Chicago the win.
Now the Bears are 6-4, tied atop the division with the Lions and in the mix for a wild card spot. Detroit swept the Bears and Chicago's conference record isn't going to do them any favors either, so the Bears aren't exactly sitting pretty. The important thing, though, is that they're still alive, even after a flood of injuries that included Cutler, Briggs, both starting defensive tackles and the starting middle linebacker.
The Bears play four of their next five on the road, but the next two are against the Rams and Vikings, seemingly winnable games. McCown hasn't turned the ball over all season in 101 pass attempts. Cutler should be ready to go again for Minnesota game on Dec. 1, but it's no guarantee.
The last four Bears games now have been insane, because, of course, they've been insane. This is the NFL, where the line between being a success and getting fired is ultra thin.
Right now, the Bears and McCown are doing what they have to do to end up on the right side of that line. If that means playing through tornado-ripe conditions during a time when the weather radar makes it seem like the whole state is covered in lava, so be it.