CLEVELAND - Jay Cutler felt the pressure and knew he had to perform well. There was no other option.
This wasn't the time to buckle. Not with his teammates, his coach, and frankly, all of Chicago counting on him. Once the rust came off, Cutler came through.
Cutler finished 22 of 31 for 265 yards and validated first-year coach Marc Trestman's decision to stick with him over McCown, who had played so well while filling in for Chicago's starter. Trestman's choice didn't come without controversy. There were reports of division within Chicago's locker room, but on a brutally cold and blustery day in Cleveland, the Bears were united.
"The guys rallied around me," Cutler said. "I'd be lying if I didn't say there was (pressure) with everything on the outside and as well as Josh has played. But this was the plan all along and no one really flinched in our building."
Trestman had promised Cutler would keep his job once he was healthy. And after Cutler was cleared earlier this week to practice, Trestman kept his word and started the not-always-popular veteran, a decision that had some Bears fans questioning whether it might be better to stick with the hot McCown, who has thrown 13 TD passes and just one interception this season.
"They played hard for him today and they had his back," Trestman said. "He's a captain - an elected captain - and I'm sure he would tell you that not just the offensive guys, but throughout our football team, they stuck together and won for each other today."
Cutler lofted a deep pass toward the front of the end zone to Jeffery, who wasn't open but hauled in the throw when safety Tashuan Gipson badly mistimed his jump.
Chicago's Brandon Marshall had six catches for 95 yards and a 5-yard touchdown. Marshall knew Cutler was playing with more at stake than usual, and could understand his teammate being nervous.
"He's not going to show it, but the human side of things, you got a guy - Josh McCown - playing lights out, probably playing better than any quarterback in the National Football League," Marshall said. "That's what I love about Jay, man. Doesn't matter the situation, he's going to be the same guy. That's what I respect about him as a player, as a captain, but also as a friend."
Chicago's Zackary Bowman returned an interception 43 yards for a TD to give the Bears a 17-10 lead in the third quarter.
Campbell's 43-yard TD pass to Josh Gordon brought Cleveland within 38-31 with 59 seconds left. The Browns, who lost a heartbreaker in New England last week when they couldn't recover a late onside kick, were then penalized for illegal formation trying one of their own and the Bears ran out the final seconds.
NOTES: The Browns lost star CB Joe Haden in the second half with a hip pointer. His absence allowed Cutler to pick on rookie CB Leon McFadden. Chudzinski said the team will know more about Haden's injury Monday. ... Gordon finished with three catches for 67 yards. He was involved in a minor car accident Saturday. ... The Bears limited the Browns to 93 yards rushing. Chicago came in ranked last in the league, allowing 157 yards per game.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press