Chicago Bears quarterback Josh McCown (12) gets hit by Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Sean Lee (50) as McCown scores during the first half Monday in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
CHICAGO — Neither the brutal cold nor one of the league’s worst defenses could stop Josh McCown and the Chicago Bears.
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 wind chill factor was below zero. Dallas (7-6) fell a game behind Philadelphia in the NFC East.
The conditions didn’t stop McCown from throwing for 348 yards or keep the Bears from running away with a lopsided victory after consecutive losses.
Alshon Jeffery’s leaping 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 after a gut-wrenching overtime loss at Minnesota last week.
McCown, making his fourth straight start with Jay Cutler sidelined by a high left ankle sprain, completed 27 of 36 passes.
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.
Tony Romo threw for three touchdowns but completed just 11 of 20 passes for 104 yards. DeMarco Murray ran for 146 yards, but the Cowboys were overmatched after winning two straight.
They also lost linebacker Sean Lee to another injury — this time a neck issue after making a tackle in the third quarter. He missed the previous two games with a hamstring problem.
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.
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.
After Bryant’s TD, McCown tied it with a 4-yard pass to Earl Bennett and put Chicago ahead 14-7 early in the second quarter with a 7-yard scramble, leaping at the goal line and getting spun in mid-air.
Jason Witten tied it at 14 when he dragged Major Wright across the goal line on a 10-yard touchdown catch, but the Bears grabbed a three-point lead on Robbie Gould’s 27-yard field goal with 1:33 remaining in the half.