Of all those to analyze what’s at stake for quarterback Mitch Trubisky on Sunday night, perhaps Dan Hampton — who, like other members of the ’85 Bears, functions as the franchise’s unhinged id — put it best.
“This is a big game — when was the last time the Bears had a big game?” he said. “Back when I played, every week was a big game. . . . You gotta pick it up. You gotta meet the moment.
“And everybody’s wondering if Trubisky can do it.”
That’s it. That’s the question.
Against the Vikings, he will step up in weight class — and in attention with a national TV audience.
He’ll have a chance to give the first-place Bears a comfortable lead atop the NFC North and guarantee that they win at least two games of their three-game, 12-day divisional gauntlet.
He could ratchet up the city’s simmering Bears interest — who else could draw two traffic helicopters to watch a kicker practice at Soldier Field? — into a rolling boil.
It’s, simply, the biggest game of his career thus far.
“This is another game for us, but it’s also a huge game at the same time,” Trubisky said. “We got a divisional opponent coming in here, it’s at Soldier Field on ‘Sunday Night Football,’ so it’s a huge opportunity to show the world what we’re about and make a statement in our division. And it means a lot.”
Can he rise to the moment? The last time he appeared on “SNF,” in the season opener against the Packers, Trubisky shrunk. He said after the one-point loss that he should have had a different mindset heading into the game’s last drive. He was thinking about trying to make a big play, not just completing the next pass.
Trubisky, though, is a different player than he was in the opener. Since Week 4, his 114.8 passer rating ranks fifth — behind Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers — among quarterbacks with more than 25 attempts.
“I think he’s improved, really, a lot,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “Command of the offense. Being able to throw the ball down when he needs to. Being able to go through his progressions much better.”
Trubisky made his NFL debut the last time the Bears played the Vikings at home. That seems like ages ago.
“I think he’s better at everything, honestly,” Zimmer said.
This is a more difficult test. The Bears have played one top-10 defense, in terms of yards allowed, this season. Against the top-ranked Bills, Trubisky had a passer rating of 76.0 — but the Bears won a blowout because of two defensive touchdowns. The Vikings are ranked fifth in yards allowed.
Of the nine teams the Bears have played, only one has a winning record today: the Patriots. The Vikings are 5-3-1 and in second place in the NFC North.
Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich isn’t concerned about the moment being too big for Trubisky. He has seen Trubisky compete as hard during post-practice throws as he does on third-and-eight on a Sunday.
“That’s something that is innate in him,” he said. “And then also I think it’s more of, ‘Stay in those moments.’ He does a great job at it.”
The Bears’ national popularity reached a new peak this week, when the team’s game against the Rams on Dec. 9 at Soldier Field was moved to prime time — just as they were preparing for the flexed game against the Vikings.
Trubisky praised his coaches and teammates for helping to turn a once-woebegone franchise in the right direction.
“The culture has definitely changed,” he said. “And there’s a better vibe around the city in how people view the Bears and how they see us.”
Dominate Sunday, and Trubisky can ensure that opinion stays that way.
“Being around him, I could tell that he’s definitely gonna be ready,” outside linebacker Khalil Mack said. “Guy’s an ultimate competitor, and I can’t wait to see what he does.”