Five things we learned vs. Cowboys

CHICAGO -- Here are five things we learned in the Chicago Bears45-28 victory over the Dallas Cowboys:

1. Trestman recovered: There was legitimate concern about whether the Bears would be capable of rebounding after their demoralizing Week 13 loss to the Vikings in the Metrodome. Coach Marc Trestman and his team answered that question on the Bears’ first offensive drive of the game, when they marched 78 yards on 12 plays and ate up 7:27 on the clock to tie the game at 7-7. The Bears never looked back on offense, partly because of the creative and efficient manner in which Trestman called plays. Trestman was in the zone Monday night. Almost everything he called was executed to perfection. He deserves credit for hanging in there after a tough week during which he was put under the microscope. The head coach overcame the adversity and now has the Bears right back in the NFC North race at 7-6.

2. McCown refuses to have a bad game: Jay Cutler may be medically cleared to start next week against the Cleveland Browns, but Josh McCown has the city buzzing after his latest performance. He went 27-of-36 for 348 passing yards, threw four touchdowns, ran for another, and registered a passer rating of 141.9. In seven appearances this year (five starts), McCown is 147-of-220 for 1,809 yards, 13 touchdowns, one interception and a 109.8 quarterback rating. Of course, McCown had the benefit of playing against a hapless Dallas defense on Monday night. He also was lucky not to have a couple of throws picked off. But when you’re in the zone, you’re in the zone. And McCown is in the zone. Nobody can dispute that.

3. Cutler hysteria expected to peak: The natural reaction is to question why the Bears, with the playoffs still a real possibility, would risk benching McCown in favor of Cutler on Sunday in Cleveland. It’s fair to wonder, but keep in mind the Bears have been consistent all year when it comes to Cutler. When healthy, he is the team’s starting quarterback. If the Bears make the switch now, there is no going back. Are you ready for that? Why not see how Cutler responds to the pressure of starting the final three games? Worst-case scenario: If he Cutler struggles, McCown will certainly be ready to enter a game at a moment’s notice. And it Cutler bombs down the stretch, the Bears will have a better idea of whether he is the guy moving forward. But Cutler also could succeed and guide the Bears to the postseason. The Bears already know what McCown can do in the offense at this stage of the season. But Cutler remains kind of a mystery. The only way to know for certain is to let him play.

4. Defense kept the Bears in it: All the Bears can ask for from the defense at this stage of the season is to keep them in ballgames. Mission accomplished Monday night. Dallas still ran all over the Bears for 198 yards on 28 carries, but the Cowboys converted just 50 percent of their third-down chances (5-of-10) and went 1-of-2 on fourth down. Those aren’t great numbers for any defense, but for the Bears, it’s an improvement. In contrast, the Bears were 8-of-11 on third downs (73 percent).The Bears also sacked Tony Romo twice and limited Dallas to 144 total passing yards.

5. Ditka ceremony a success: The tribute at halftime to retire Mike Ditka's No. 89 went off without a hitch. From the red carpet that stretched from the Bears’ sideline to the middle of the field -- where a small stage was assembled that contained the 1963 NFL championship trophy, the Super Bowl XX Vince Lombardi trophy and Ditka’s bronze Hall of Fame bust -- to the classy and well-produced video montages that rolled on the JumboTron featuring Ditka’s former teammates and players, the organization should be proud of the way it celebrated one of the game’s all-time greats. Ditka delivered a heartfelt and articulate speech that culminated with a loud, “Go Bears,” which sent the crowd into a frenzy. Team chairman George McCaskey, who enthusiastically introduced Ditka, should be applauded for the manner in which he has reconnected with the team’s alumni base since assuming his current position two years ago.