LAKE FOREST, Illinois — To Josh McCown, this recent success is all in the details.
Unable to sustain it early in his career, the veteran quarterback is making the most of his chance with the Bears filling in for the injured Jay Cutler.
He's 2-0 as a starter heading into this weekend's game at St. Louis, and McCown's strong play over four appearances is one reason why the Bears have stayed in playoff contention.
They're tied with Detroit for the NFC North lead at 6-4 despite injuries to key players on offense and defense. McCown is making the most of his opportunity, something he didn't necessarily do in the past.
"When I was younger, I didn't do some of the things I do now to help myself," McCown said Thursday. "I think that's part of the learning process. I'm sure everybody in here has those if-I-knew-then-what-I-know-now moments. And certainly, I feel that way but thankful to have the opportunity to kind of exorcise some of that and take some of these things I've learned and put them into practice."
At 34, McCown is at least enjoying a sort of rebirth if not playing the best ball of his career. After all, he has a 100 rating with five touchdowns and no turnovers .
It's not the first time he's gotten an extended look. McCown started 13 games for Arizona in 2004 with a young Anquan Boldin and rookie Larry Fitzgerald as his top targets but saw his role diminish.
He was coaching high school football when the Bears signed him 2011 after Cutler suffered a season-ending thumb injury. He made two starts after Caleb Hanie struggled, got released by Chicago in August 2012 after re-signing five months earlier and rejoined the Bears last November.
He didn't play a snap that season, but the Bears turned to him when Cutler tore his left groin muscle at Washington on Oct. 20. He played well in that game and led the Bears to a surprising win in a start at Green Bay two weeks later.
Then, after Cutler suffered a high left ankle sprain in the first half against Detroit on Nov. 10, McCown came on for the final drive and threw a touchdown pass. The Bears lost by two when the two-point conversion failed.
But McCown came through again in last week's overtime win over Baltimore, throwing for 216 yards.
So what's different for him now? What's he doing that he didn't when he was younger?
"How much time do we have?" McCown said. "There's just several things with just the way I approach it and the way I prepare and there's a lot of detailed things that I do that I didn't think I needed to do. You know, 'Oh, I got it. I don't need to do this and do that.' There's just things that I do that help me. Some of it's extra time on film and some of it has to do with the way I study the plays and the manner in which I study the plays and those things."
NOTES: DE Shea McClellin (hamstring), RT Jordan Mills (quadriceps) and LS Patrick Mannelly (calf) went through a full practice on Thursday. CB Isaiah Frey (broken hand), S Craig Steltz (concussion) and DT Jeremiah Ratliff (groin) were limited, and DT Stephen Paea (toe) did not participate.
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