CHICAGO — Neither the brutal cold nor the league’s worst defense could stop Josh McCown and the Bears.
Instead, Chicago jumped right back into the playoff race.
McCown threw for a career-high four touchdowns, and the Bears scored on their first eight possessions to grab a share of the NFC North lead with a 45-28 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on a frigid Monday night.
The Bears (7-6) retired Hall of Famer Mike Ditka’s number at halftime and pulled even with Detroit in the division race on a night when the game-time temperature was in single digits and the wind chill factor was below zero.
The loss left Dallas (7-6) a game behind Philadelphia in the NFC East and owner Jerry Jones calling for more aggressive play-calling on defense.
The bone-chilling conditions didn’t stop McCown from throwing for 348 yards or keep Chicago from running away with a lopsided victory.
It was one they desperately needed after consecutive losses, and although Detroit holds the head-to-head sweep, the Bears are back in the thick of the playoff race.
“All we could do is try to beat the Dallas Cowboys,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “We kept it as simple as that. We didn’t get into all the hypotheticals and all the things that go into winning or losing a game.”
Alshon Jeffery’s catch between two defenders in the corner of the end zone in the closing seconds of the second quarter gave the Bears a 24-14 lead, and they continued to pour it on in the second half.
McCown, making his fourth consecutive start with Jay Cutler sidelined by a high left ankle sprain, completed 27 of 36 passes. DeMarcus Ware blamed the Cowboys’ defense.
“If you were back there quarterbacking and we played the way we played you probably would have five touchdowns,” he said.
Brandon Marshall caught six passes for 100 yards, and Jeffery added 84 yards receiving after breaking his own team record the previous week with 249.
Matt Forte chipped in with 102 yards rushing and 73 receiving, and the Bears racked up 490 yards in all.
“Basically, we will have to make some adjustments in what we are doing defensively,” Jones said.
Tony Romo, who completed 11 of his 20 passes, threw for 104 yards and three touchdowns for the Cowboys. DeMarco Murray ran for 146 yards, but Dallas was overmatched.
The Cowboys also lost linebacker Sean Lee to another injury — this time a neck issue after making a tackle in the third quarter. He missed the past two games with a bad hamstring.
“Certainly, it was a disappointing loss and the loss stings,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “The worst thing we can do is have a hangover after this loss.”
The game-time temperature was 8 degrees with the wind chill at minus 9, but the freezing conditions did nothing to slow either team in the early going. Garrett said both teams handled it well.
Murray burned Chicago for 52 yards on six carries on the game’s opening possession to set up a 2-yard scoring pass from Romo to Dez Bryant, but the Bears scored just about every time they got the ball.