GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler spent Monday night at Lambeau Field stuck on the sideline, a torn groin muscle rendering him inactive for at least one game.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers disappeared after one series, his left shoulder (according to the Packers) injured significantly enough on an early sack by Shea McClellin that he couldn't return. And he might not for a while.
Just like that, the best quarterback on the "Monday Night Football" stage was 34-year-old Josh McCown, a poised and appreciative veteran looking to make the most of an indefinite window of opportunity.
Who said any of this was supposed to make sense? The Bears' improbable 27-20 road victory registered as surprising at the very least. They arrived at Lambeau as 101/2-point underdogs and left clumped in a three-way tie at 5-3 atop the NFC North with the Packers and Lions.
The go-ahead score came late in the third quarter, a 6-yard dart from McCown to Alshon Jeffery in one-on-one coverage against cornerback Davon House that provided a 24-20 lead.
Among McCown's other contributions were a brilliant 23-yard first-quarter touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall while being pulled down from behind by Mike Neal and a composed 93-yard drive at the end of the first half that ended with a 24-yard Robbie Gould field goal for a 17-10 halftime lead.
It all added up to a 22-for-41, 272-yard, turnover-free night that further legitimized coach Marc Trestman as an offensive wizard capable of energizing his attack no matter who's taking the snaps.
For two weeks, since relieving Cutler in a loss at Washington, McCown had heard constant reminders from teammates and coaches that the key to his success would hinge on his ability to guide the offense without trying to do too much.
Yet after a mini-skid of three losses in four games, the Bears went to Wisconsin understanding the danger of potentially falling two games behind the Packers.
Without question, Rodgers' exit and the entry of replacement Seneca Wallace delivered a huge blow to the Packers offense. But the Bears also maximized their opportunity.
Defensive end Julius Peppers made an athletic first-quarter interception, batting a Wallace pass into the air and leaping to corral it.
Marshall (seven catches for 107 yards) and Jeffery (five for 60) enhanced McCown's confidence.
Running back Matt Forte added firepower with 179 yards from scrimmage and a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
And, yes, McClellin's sack -- one of five by the Bears, including three for the second-year defensive end -- may have been the night's biggest play, forcing the Packers to settle for a short field goal after an impressive opening drive and chasing Rodgers to the locker room.
Even in victory, there were signs of how vulnerable the Bears defense can be. The Packers' first two touchdown drives measured one play, 32 yards, 7 seconds and two plays, 57 yards, 53 seconds.
The former was a gift touchdown sprint by James Starks down an O'Hare-sized runway left wide open after linebacker James Anderson exited his gap, leaving Starks' lead blocker, John Kuhn, looking for anyone to hit in the hole.
The Packers' longest run on their next touchdown drive was a similarly easy 56-yarder from Eddie Lacy, who pounded his way to 150 yards on 22 rushes.
It's no wonder Trestman opted for a gutsy run call on fourth-and-inches at the Bears 32 with 7:50 left. Forte converted with a 3-yard run, and the Packers didn't see the ball again until 50 seconds remained, after an 18-play drive ended with Gould's 27-yard field goal.
The Bears entered the game allowing 391 yards and 29.4 points per game, startling evidence of ineffectiveness for a defense known for its sturdiness.
"It's foreign to me," cornerback Charles Tillman said Saturday. "This is new for me, and I definitely don't like it. It leaves a sour taste in your mouth."
"But the bye week came at a perfect time because it gave our defense and our coaches enough time to sit back and evaluate us. It's not about the opponent. It's about us. What can we do?"
On Monday, the Bears found playmakers across the board to pull out a crucial division road win, a huge boost at the season's midpoint
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