(Reuters) - Chicago quarterback Josh McCown made a strong case to become the team’s permanent starter after he dominated Dallas in a 45-28 win on Monday that vaulted the Bears into joint first place in the NFC North.
Making his fourth straight start in place of the injured Jay Cutler, McCown warmed up the home crowd in freezing conditions by passing for 348 yards, four touchdowns and running for another score.
The 34-year-old McCown has been stellar all season and now has 13 touchdown passes and just one interception. His latest output helped Chicago (7-6) tie with Detroit (7-6) in the divisional race.
But despite McCown’s strong form, Cutler is expected to return from injury soon and regain his place.
“There’s no change in the plan. We’ll see where Jay is this week,” Bears coach Marc Trestman told reporters of the stated plan to start Cutler when he’s cleared medically.
“I thought (McCown) played an excellent game.”
Matt Forte rushed for 99 yards and added 73 receiving yards and a score for the Bears in a shootout victory that did not include a turnover by either team.
Dallas (7-6) fell one game behind first-place Philadelphia (8-5) in the NFC East with the loss.
The Cowboys managed to keep pace early and tied the game 14-14 late in the second quarter, but McCown caught fire and never looked back.
Chicago’s backup quarterback led two quick drives just before halftime, resulting in a field goal and a 25-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery as the Bears scored 28 points without reply to put the game out of reach.
McCown’s pass to Jeffery featured a spectacular grab in the back corner of the end zone where the receiver leaped above a defender.
“You want to put a ball where a guy can catch it but not put the ball in jeopardy, so to speak,” McCown said. “My part was relatively easy. His part was unreal.”
Dallas tallied two fourth-quarter touchdowns to trim the final deficit.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw for three scores but only 104 yards while running back DeMarco Murray picked up 146 yards on the ground.
Writing by Jahmal Corner. Editing by Patrick Johnston