Somewhere along the line of the 2013 season, the unusual has become the usual for Josh McCown.
The veteran quarterback never had more than five games in on season with a passer rating higher than 90. He’s topped 90 in all six of his appearances in 2013 — something Jay Cutler has never managed in six consecutive games — and has reached the point where the Bears admit they are starting to look at this sort of thing from McCown as normal.
“You kind of go into it expecting it and then it continued to happen over and over and over,” said coordinator Aaron Kromer. “So it is pleasing to us and we've got to keep working hard. He works extremely hard at it. He's in the office constantly. He's there late. I don't know if he ever goes home.”
[RB Viewers Guide: Helping Forte on short-yardage efforts]
The surprise on Monday night will be if McCown’s run of 90’s doesn’t reach seven. Dallas is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 64.3 percent of their passes, 25th in the NFL, and an average passer rating of 91.7, which ranks 22nd. McCown is completing 65.2 percent of his passes, with a 103.6 passer rating on the year, good for No. 7 in the NFL currently.
“We work as players together and so for me it’s just functioning within what’s been set up for us to do and just trying to do my job and make the plays that are there to be made,” McCown said. “That’s really it. It’s the guys around. It’s the play calls. It’s the preparation. If you put the work in, you’ve put yourself in a chance to have some success and play some good ball.”
The Bears have played some good ball with McCown, but they are 2-4 in games he’s played. The main problems have been on defense, but the offense, while putting up 400-plus yards against Green Bay, St. Louis and Minnesota, has gotten only so far and not far enough considering the yardage production.
[LB Viewers Guide: Good run fits may not be enough]
Dallas is 22nd in scoring defense and among the league’s worst in multiple defensive categories. But the Cowboys are third in scoring, meaning that McCown cannot simply put up yardage with passes to Alshon Jeffery. The Bears converted just two of 11 third downs at Minnesota and have converted better than 50 percent against only twice all season (Minnesota I, St. Louis)
What to look for: Red-zone finishing. The Bears have a 55.8-percent touchdown rate once inside opposing 20-yard lines, which is a respectable 12th. But they have lost three of their last four, and over that stretch have scored touchdowns on just five of 11 red-zone trips.
Worse, they scored touchdowns on just three of seven goal-to-go possessions. Against Dallas, which scores touchdowns on 67.6 percent of red-zone possessions, that will ensure a third straight defeat.
“When you’re doing the things that we’re doing offensively and you’re moving the football but you’re not getting the points, it’s very frustrating,” McCown said. “You look at those areas and you say, ‘what can we do that we’ve not been doing? What are the things that we need to pay attention to closer. Where are we missing? Why are we missing?’
“We need to get better at what we’re doing.”