Bears-Ravens: What we learned

Ira Miller, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- With their backup quarterback outdueling one of the NFL's highest-paid players, the Chicago Bears overcame an early deficit and waited out a nearly two-hour weather delay to beat the Baltimore Ravens, 23-20, on Robbie Gould's 38-yard field goal in overtime Sunday at Soldier Field.
Josh McCown, making his second start in place of injured starter Jay Cutler, threw a 14-yard, third-down completion to Alshon Jeffery and then connected with tight end Martellus Bennett, who fought off cornerback Lardarius Webb for the ball, for 43 yards to set up the winning kick.
McCown has attempted 101 passes in four games without throwing an interception, while Cutler nurses groin and ankle injuries. Joe Flacco, the Ravens' quarterback who signed a $120 million contract in the offseason, threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown by David Bass, a rookie defensive lineman, and another which set up one of Gould's three field goals.
"The number one thing in the quarterback's job is to take care and protect the football," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "He's got to be efficient but even before he's efficient, he has to take care of the ball."
McCown did both Sunday, completing 19 of 31 passes for 216 yards and one touchdown. His offensive line protected him well against a Baltimore defense that has one of the NFL's best pass rushes; both sacks the Bears allowed came on scrambles near the line of scrimmage.
The game was delayed an hour and 53 minutes in the first quarter, with Baltimore ahead, 10-0, because of pounding rain, high winds and a tornado warning accompanied by a storm that did considerable damage in the area. Fans were forced to empty the stands and the players retreated to their locker rooms, where the Bears - who had started sluggishly with back-to-back busted plays on offense - went through an offensive walkthrough.
"Crazy day," said McCown.
"The guys were very energized when they went back out there," Trestman said.
With the victory, the Bears (6-4) moved into a first place tie with Detroit in the NFC's North division. The Ravens (4-6) fell two and a half games behind Cincinnati in the AFC's North division and are in danger of becoming the seventh defending Super Bowl champion in 15 years to miss the playoffs.
"I heard Joe (Flacco) say, 'It might be hard to convince people, there are going to be a lot of skeptics out there who don't want to believe it, but we will keep fighting ... We'll come back home for a few weeks and get ourselves back in this thing," said John Harbaugh, the Ravens' coach.
Baltimore had a great chance to win the game at the end of the fourth quarter, driving 82 yards against the wind to reach the Chicago 2-yard line with a second-and-goal. But the Chicago defense - missing four opening-day starters due to injury - stuffed running back Ray Rice for a one-yard loss on second down and forced an incomplete pass on third down. Baltimore settled for a game-tying, 21-yard field goal by Justin Tucker with three seconds remaining.

What the Ravens said:
"I've never been on a field that messy and never played in a wind that bad. Gusts from every direction, but I've got to make plays." - Ravens receiver Tandon Doss.

What the Bears said:
"When the call (for the long pass in overitme to Martellus Bennett, who was the third optionon the play) came in, I looked over at Jay (Cutler) on the sidelines and smiled. We got the coverage we wanted. It was a great call." - Bears quarterback Josh McCown.

What we learned about the Ravens:
1. They can run the ball, although it had not shown in their previous nine games. Baltimore came into the game averaging just 73.1 yards a game rushing and a league-low 2.8 a carry. Against the Bears, they rushed for 174 yards and averaged 4.2, led by Ray Rice's 131 yards.
2. Baltimore's defense missed nose tackle Haloti Ngata, out with a knee injury. The Ravens have had at least two sacks in 18 consecutive games but the two sacks against the Bears came after Josh McCown has escaped the pocket and scrambled toward the line of scrimmage; he lost no yardage on one of them and one yard on the other.

What we learned about the Bears:
1. Each week, Josh McCown's work as an injury fill-in makes it more clear they will have a tough decision to make at the end of the season on the status of starter Jay Cutler, whose contract will be up. McCown is a 34-year-old career backup who has looked terrific replacing Cutler - completing 61 of 101 passes for 754 yards and five touchdowns, without an interception.
2. Their defense is getting very thin but fill-ins are performing well. Chicago's defense was without four season-opening starters Sunday and lost cornerback Tim Jennings to an injury in overtime but held up under pressure down the stretch and got the ball back for the offense and the winning drive.

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