LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The great quarterback debate in Chicago is over. Now, the Bears can focus on a bigger issue, like making the playoffs.
They got Jay Cutler back from an ankle injury and took a step toward the postseason with a 38-31 victory at Cleveland on Sunday.
The Bears are one game ahead of Detroit in the NFC North after the Lions lost to the Ravens on Monday night.
Chicago (8-6) has back-to-back wins just when it looked as if it was dropping out of contention. They Bears are in a better spot now as they get ready to visit Philadelphia this weekend.
Cutler overcame a shaky start against the Browns while completing 22 of 31 passes for 265 yards after missing the previous four games with a high left ankle sprain. He also validated coach Marc Trestman's decision to go with him even though Josh McCown had played so well in his absence.
"It means a lot," left tackle Jermon Bushrod said. "If he can do that, if he can live up to his word with the way Josh was playing, then you know if he can do that and let the quarterback know he can do it ... He was just being true to his team, true to his word. And that just means a lot to our team."
Trestman had said for weeks that the job was Cutler's when he was ready to return.
Even so, there was plenty of debate leading up to the game.
There were reports of division in the locker room, and Cutler even acknowledged after the game that he was feeling some extra pressure. He talked to Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte and the leaders on the offensive line in Roberto Garza and Bushrod to make sure they were on board with him playing.
Trestman was adamant, and he saw no need to take the temperature of the locker room. In his mind, playing Cutler was the right decision — period. And he made that clear early on.