CINCINNATI — Mitch Trubisky the smart-aleck jokester was back. And the Bears had to be ecstatic to see and hear it Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
Is it fair to say that the Bears were more aggressive against the Bengals?
“Sure, it’s fair to say,” Trubisky said. “Everyone’s got opinions.”
But is it accurate to say that?
“It’s accurate,” Trubisky said.
The smirk on Trubisky’s face during his playful banter with reporters said plenty after the Bears’ 33-7 rout of the downtrodden Bengals. His chuckling did, too.
It was good to meet the media again. And it was good to joke around again because it was good to finally win again. Trubisky didn’t have another disheartening loss to discuss but a victory in which he resembled a franchise-changing quarterback.
“That’s why you trade up and get a quarterback like that,” wide receiver Kendall Wright said. “He played lights-out, and he’s really becoming a leader. He’s coming into his own, just being himself.”
Trubisky needed the result. He might not say it, but he needed the validation for all his early mornings and late nights at Halas Hall. As coach John Fox said, he spends seven days a week at the Bears’ facility.
“I don’t know about the validation part because I feel like that’s on the outside,” said Trubisky, who completed 25 of 32 passes for 271 yards, including a one-yard touchdown to tight end Adam Shaheen, and a 112.4 passer rating.
“But I really just feel confident about getting better each week. Yes, it’s from my play. But I get feedback from teammates. From them just looking at me, I can tell that they’re confident in me. I just feel like my play is getting better each week.”
It helped to play the Bengals, who were without five defensive starters: cornerbacks Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick, linebackers Nick Vigil and Vontaze Burfict and safety Shawn Williams. All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins also was hobbled by a toe injury.
But it also helped that Fox finally showed trust in Trubisky. It wasn’t there in the Bears’ last victory, against the Panthers on Oct. 22. Fox turned his rookie quarterback into a handoff machine once the Bears got the lead that day.
Losses to the 49ers and the Brett Hundley-led Packers stain the Bears’ season, but Trubisky should provide hope. His performance still was meaningful against the banged-up Bengals because nothing means more than his development.
Trubisky scored on a four-yard run on a read-option play. He beat blitzes by completing 18- and 19-yard passes to Wright (10 catches, 107 yards) and tight end Dion Sims. He trusted Wright on his option routes over the middle. And he spread the ball around to eight receivers to beat the Bengals’ zone coverage and limit the focus on running back Jordan Howard (23 carries, 147 yards, two touchdowns).
That’s progress, regardless of the opponent.
The Bears’ offense overcame penalties and produced a season-high 482 yards. The 33 points scored and 29 first downs gained also were highs. And even though it ended with a field goal, the Bears had a 15-play, 86-yard drive that lasted eight minutes, 11 seconds.
The Bears did it all because Trubisky was their best player on a day in which many of their young players stood out.
“It’s good to reap the rewards from putting in a lot of hard work [last] week,” Trubisky said. “But you’ve got to move on, watch the film [Sunday night], get over it, then get back out there for Detroit on a short week.”
Trubisky surely will see plays he doesn’t like on film.
But that’s just who he is.
“He’s very critical of himself,” center Cody Whitehair said. “Especially after a loss, he’s more critical of himself. That’s what’s going to make him a great player.”
Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns.