The game had been hyped as a referendum on how good the Bears and Mitch Trubisky truly were.
The Vikings had won four of their previous five games and were fresh heading into Sunday’s game, thanks to a bye the previous weekend. The Bears had been criticized for climbing to the top of the NFC North without having won many games of real substance.
Here’s what we know after their 25-20 victory over Minnesota at Soldier Field:
The Bears are very good.
Trubisky didn’t have to be very good Sunday, and he wasn’t. Something tells me that’s a Bears slogan that won’t catch on.
Do his struggles matter in the afterglow of a big victory over an opponent trying to knock them out of first place? Not now they don’t. They might later.
On a clear, chilly night, the Bears raised their record to 7-3, their defense was a smothering monster and their kicker, Cody Parkey, hit field goals instead of uprights.
Trubisky threw two interceptions and one touchdown pass via a game plan clearly designed to limit his exposure to a nasty Vikings defense.
“It wasn’t always pretty on offense, but we grinded it out,’’ he said.
Do we have any better of an idea whether Trubisky is the real deal? No, we do not. But we do know that he stepped up in class Sunday and didn’t rise to the occasion.
“For our guys to have some success against this great defense, I’m proud of ’em,’’ coach Matt Nagy said.
Perhaps focusing on Trubisky is missing the point in a game in which the Bears’ defense spent much of the night shutting down Kirk Cousins and the Vikings’ offense. Eddie Jackson had a pick-six interception, Adrian Amos had an interception and Khalil Mack forced a fumble and recovered it.
The Bears’ defense outdid the Vikings’ steel-reinforced defense.
“Just constant pressure and aggressiveness,’’ Nagy said.
So who needs offense?
Well, the Bears do, if they’re serious about this whole winning thing. You don’t need a great quarterback to win a Super Bowl. You do need a great quarterback to have a good team year after year.
Trubisky finished 20-of-31 for 160 yards and a passer rating of 61.9.
In the second quarter, he threw a bad idea of a pass in the vicinity of wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, who had three Vikings defenders near him. One of those defenders, safety Anthony Harris, snared the ball out of the air. Harris would pick off another Trubisky pass in the third quarter.
Good Mitch showed up in the second quarter. In one drive, he gained a combined 19 yards on two straight scrambles and added nine yards on a designed run. His running ability might be his greatest asset. At a minimum, it’s an implied threat.
He’ll sling it, too. He threw a perfectly placed ball into the end zone to rookie Anthony Miller for an 18-yard touchdown in the second quarter. At halftime, he was 12 of 14 for 92 yards, thanks to a diet of short passes.
Trubisky almost threw a pick-six in the fourth quarter with his team leading 14-6. As bad as the Bears made Cousins look much of the night, Minnesota’s defense made Trubisky look worse.
“He’s growing,’’ Nagy said. “He’s in a special place right now. He knows he can get better, but we like where he’s at. His teammates like where he’s at, and his coaches do, too.’
Mitch fatigue has not set in. He is still the most fascinating athlete in Chicago and probably will be until his career here is done. But we’re in the answers business. Heading into Sunday’s game, Trubisky had passed most of the tests that had come his way this season. The problem was that most of the tests weren’t exactly grad-school level. That wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t his fault that the defenses offered by the Buccaneers and the Lions had been remedial. Not his fault that he threw six touchdown passes against Tampa Bay or that he threw for a career-high 355 yards against Detroit.
It’s just that we want more. Proof. Evidence. Porridge. Something beyond what we’ve already been given.
I’ll admit I’ve gone from preaching patience about Trubisky to thrumming my fingers on the desk impatiently, wanting to know when, oh, when answers would be available. One was provided Sunday night. If you didn’t know it already, you knew it after the Bears’ victory over a tough opponent: They’re very good. Parkey atoned for the four hit uprights he hit against the Lions the previous week.
And Trubisky? We’re still trying to figure him out. Unless we have.