Backup QBs leading productive offenses
Saturday, November 23, 2013
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Josh McCown has been efficient enough for the Chicago Bears to prompt the obligatory quarterback controversy questions.
Kellen Clemens averaged an eye-popping 27 yards per completion his latest outing for the St. Louis Rams.
Though jobs aren't in jeopardy for the hobbled starters, both teams' offenses are doing just fine.
McCown has thrown for five touchdowns with no interceptions in 101 passes overall for Chicago (6-4) entering his third straight start Sunday. Jay Cutler is out at least one more week with a high left ankle sprain, and there's a bit of fuel added to the situation given Cutler's contract is due to expire.
Regarding McCown, coach Marc Trestman said: "I didn't have any expectations. I didn't really know Josh before I got here. I think the key, like most quarterbacks, he's extremely hard working."
Clemens is in the midst of his first open-ended run as a starter since 2007 with the Jets. He goes in place of Sam Bradford, out for the year with a left knee injury. Clemens made the most out of every chance in a surprising 38-8 romp at Indianapolis his last time out, going 9 for 16 for 247 yards and two touchdowns — the first multi-TD game of his career.
"Hopefully the guys are getting more comfortable with me being in there," Clemens said. "It was a good week against Indianapolis, but you're not going to win the next game based on your performance from that week."
According to STATS, the average per completion was the NFL's best since Seattle's Trent Dilfer averaged 29 yards on Oct. 20, 2002 at St. Louis.
Entering his fourth start this year and 16th in eight seasons, Clemens is not worried about the likelihood rookie Tavon Austin will get double-teamed coming off a breakout game against the Colts. Austin had two TD receptions of 55-plus yards along with a 98-yard punt return.
"We don't have 'Megatron,'" Clemens said, referring to the Lions' Calvin Johnson, "but we have a lot of playmakers that can make big plays at any time."
Five things to watch for in Bears against Rams (4-6):
BROTHER VS. BROTHER: After practice Wednesday, Rams defensive end Chris Long pretended not to notice all the photos of his younger brother, Bears guard Kyle Long, taped around his locker stall. He plays wide-eyed and oblivious really well and pretended to be unaware they'll be opponents for the first time, loudly complaining "That's not funny. I'm not even thinking about it at all." Because Chris is three years older, they've never even been teammates. Plus, their father, TV analyst Howie Long, a Pro Football Hall of Fame member, will be in the house. "He's probably picked a side," Chris Long said.
STOPPING THE BACKUPS: The Bears have gotten over a spate of injuries and gotten stingier on defense, allowing an average of 20 points the last three games after giving up 29 points per game in the first seven. A rejuvenated Julius Peppers had two sacks to double his season total against the Ravens, and could keep the mobile Clemens on the move. The Rams have had a pair of dominant defensive efforts the last three games, earning five turnovers against the Colts and holding the Seahawks to 135 total yards, although in between those games they laid an egg at home to the Titans.
MOMENTUM SWING: The Bears gained confidence outlasting the elements and the Ravens in overtime last week, a game delayed nearly two hours by heavy rain and wind that prompted hundreds to flee for the safety of sports bars. The Rams are coming off their bye, often a positive, and the 30-point margin of victory against the NFC South-leading Colts was the largest in a decade for the franchise. Chicago goes for five straight in the series and the elements won't be a factor in the Edward Jones Dome.
IT KEEPS YOU RUNNING: Zac Stacy's production has made it easier on Clemens. NFL rookies have seven 100-yard games, two by Vanderbilt's career leading rusher, and the Rams want to keep the fifth-rounder rolling a week after Baltimore's Ray Rice had 131 yards and a score against Chicago. The Bears' Matt Forte is among the league leaders with 774 yards and needs 66 to pass Neal Anderson (6,166) for second place on the franchise list behind Walter Payton. The Colts managed 18 yards rushing against St. Louis.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Rams punter Johnny Hekker leads the NFL with a net average of 43.5 yards, surrendering just 73 return yards in 53 attempts. Directional skills will come in handy against ever-dangerous Devin Hester, who returned his 13th career punt for a score in Week 7 against Washington. Austin's even hotter, off that daring 98-yarder against Indianapolis, although on the year he's averaging just 8.9 yards. Bears kicker Robbie Gould is second on the career field goal accuracy list at 86.3 percent and is 19 for 20 this year.
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