Aaron Rodgers had everything going for him against Chicago last night. Backup quarterback? Check. Damaged defense? Check. Opponent who had no expectation of winning? Check. Accordingly, the Packers were a heavy favorite and – other than the legacy borne of matchups going back to 1921 – there was nothing that warranted watching the game. There was nothing to stop Chicago from realizing its annual loss on Lambeau Field.
In the Packers’ opening drive, Shea McClellin slammed Rodgers to the ground and sent the Discount Double Check to the showers with a fractured left (non-throwing side) collarbone. Enter Iowa State alumnus Seneca Wallace and suddenly we’re watching a battle of the backups and all the pre-game prospects are rendered instantly moot. Then it turns out that Trestman had McCown and his offense unusually well prepared for the game, and the combination of stunningly good ball control (McCown did not suffer a single turnover) and 27 points were enough to alter history and put a game in the win column for the Bears who left the Packers with 20 points as the clock wound down. Seneca Wallace was ineffective all night and although Eddie Lacy ran all over the Bears it wasn’t enough in the losing effort. McCown continuously made the right reads and kept drives going on third-down (6-14, which is probably the most important stat outside of the turnover margin). McCown hooked up with Brandon Marshall for 107 yards and Alshon Jeffery had an equally impressive night helping spread around the wealth on offense. Matt Forte again made McCown look good. His 3-touchdown performance against the Redskins was followed by 125 yards and a score last night, which effectively neutralized Lacy’s 150-yard performance.
So what’s Trestman to do now? McCown deserves a lot of credit of the win, and his energy level was certainly on display as he rallied his offense to overachieve. Trestman has to decide who will start in the upcoming pivotal divisional matchup when the Bears host Detroit for first place in the NFC North. Chicago has understandably warmed to its quarterback fill-in. In the three halves he’s played, McCown has been unexpectedly phenomenal. If Cutler comes back next week and immediately starts to turn the ball over at the rate to which we’ve become accustomed, then Trestman will be tempted to give him the quick hook. Cutler’s confidence and poise will be very much under scrutiny.
Last night’s win opens up such a world of possibilities for Chicago that loyalty cannot be allowed to trump continued success. If Cutler comes back and can’t sustain the momentum that McCown has generated over the past two weeks then Trestman’s gotta ride the hot hand to win the division. But make no mistake, Bears’ fans, Trestman prepared McCown to optimize his strengths and weaknesses, so let’s keep things in perspective. McCown is not the franchise quarterback after all. This is not just about a hot arm. It’s about who Trestman believes will best execute an offense as customized to his quarterback selection.
The win over the Packers should propel the Bears to gain traction for the stretch run. Hey, if they could finally win in Lambeau, why not dream of a home playoff game in January? Why shouldn’t we want change to our customs? And, with all due respect Jay, and whether you like it or not, you are a custom that deserves the scrutiny you will be getting against Detroit.