CHICAGO - With their backup quarterback outdueling the NFL's highest-paid player, 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.
Rice had started the Ravens' early roll with a 47-yard run, the team's longest of the season, and he finished with 131 yards on 25 carries as Baltimore, the NFL's least efficient rushing team, piled up a season-high 174 yards and a season best 4.2 yards-per-carry average. But on a day when the weather made the rushing game so vital, the Ravens could not get the key yards when they needed them.
"There was one point (the wind) was blowing sideline to sideline where we could not throw the ball, any throw, even a screen pass," said Trestman, explaining why Chicago, which trailed 17-13 at the half, did not attempt a single pass in the third quarter.
The Bears took the lead with an 83-yard drive early in the fourth quarter, the touchdown coming when running back Matt Forte took a screen pass on an audible call by McCown from the 14-yard line and made a couple of nifty moves to evade tacklers on his way to the end zone.
Baltimore was able to tie it with the help of a third-down penalty by the Bears and then a one-handed, fourth down catch by tight end Dallas Clark that kept alive the drive at the end of the fourth quarter.
Despite his success as a fill-in, McCown, a 34-year-old journeyman, clearly has no illusions about where he fits in the Bears' hierarchy.
"I just feel like I'm the backup quarterback on this team and the way I serve my team is to play when the starter's not healthy," he said.