The home crowd booed the Bears for the first time with Mitch Trubisky at the helm.
The rookie quarterback heard the 40,788 at Soldier Field vent their frustrations Thursday when he jogged off the field after his third consecutive three-and-out to open the Bears’ mostly meaningless fourth preseason game, an eventual 25-0 loss to the Browns.
“I was just thinking to myself, ‘That’s the first time in my career I’ve handed off nine straight times,’ ” Trubisky said. “Nothing I could do about it. Hopefully, it’s the last time.”
The Bears kept Trubisky wrapped in Nerf foam for his first start, which lasted four drives — though they veered from the plan, oddly enough, at the end of the game.
Trubisky entered twice in the last three minutes for two pass plays when backup Connor Shaw was injured — first with because of concussion protocol, then a hamstring injury. After the Bears took a timeout rather than run out the clock, he threw an incompletion, then, inexplicably, inexcusably, was sacked to end the game.
Coach John Fox didn’t apologize, saying he liked that Trubisky wanted to score.
“I think it’s going to be fair to say it [wasn’t] the first time he’s been hit, and it won’t be the last,” he said.
Trubisky joked that the fireman duty took him back to his redshirt freshman and sophomore days at North Carolina.
“Come off the bench cold and play football,” he said. “That’s about it. . . . I wish we would have scored.”
No one will remember the score of this game. What they’ll remember is that Trubisky escaped relatively unscathed. That was the plan.
Until the game-ending sack, the hardest hit he took came from a Browns coach. Trubisky scrambled right about two minutes into the second quarter when he was shoved in the back by linebacker Deon King — who was flagged for unnecessary roughness — and careened into Browns offensive line coach Bob Wylie.
The Bears praised the virtue of getting Trubisky snaps in the fourth preseason game during the week — “It’s not easy to get live game reps as a quarterback in this league; it helps development,” Fox said Tuesday — but then handcuffed him in the name of health.
It was a prudent decision. The game didn’t matter as much as the days leading up to it.
The Bears wanted to watch Trubisky prepare this week as though he was the starter, knowing that moment will come again, sooner or later.
On the pregame radio show, general manager Ryan Pace said it was “important for him to prepare as the starter, walk out there as the starter and warm up. That whole simulation is important for his growth.”
The simulation didn’t carry over into game action. He handed off nine times before attempting a pass. By the end of the first quarter, the Bears had four positive runs, four negative runs and a carry for zero yards.
Trubisky’s fourth drive featured completions of seven yards to Deonte Thompson and three yards to Victor Cruz and two incompletions. He didn’t get much help on the incomplete passes. Roommate Adam Shaheen dropped one pass, and undrafted rookie running back Josh Rounds had alligator arms on another.
Trubisky finished 2-for-5 for 10 yards against Cleveland, finishing his fabulous preseason 36-for-53 for 364 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions and a passer rating of 106.2.
The next game he plays in — whenever that might be — will be more important than Thursday. That he escaped safely was the closest the Bears came to a victory.
“Reps are never a bad thing, in my opinion,” Trubisky said. “The more you can get, the better off you’ll be.”
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