When it became time for the Bears to dance after their 48-10 spanking of the Buccaneers on Sunday at Soldier Field, running back Tarik Cohen had a song in mind for quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
“We had ‘My Dawg’ by Lil Baby,” Cohen said. “We were all just looking at Mitch like, ‘That’s my dog.’ Because he balled today.”
That, he did.
The most overanalyzed athlete in Chicago shut up his critics with a special performance on his home turf. Trubisky completed 19 of 26 passes for 354 yards, six touchdowns and a 154.7 passer rating.
It wasn’t vindication, but validation. With an offensive-minded coach in Matt Nagy, Trubisky finally played and produced as other quarterbacks in his draft class have done early in their careers.
Trubisky’s performance not only changed perceptions about him, but expectations for the Bears as a team under Nagy. With that caliber of quarterback play, the Bears might be for real. In the long run, it’s a pairing that could work.
Those in the locker room expected such an effort to happen at some point. Several players made it sound as if they felt that Trubisky’s breakout game was coming. It’s what they’ve experienced in practice at Halas Hall. Trubisky’s 14-yard touchdown throw on a corner route to receiver Allen Robinson in the first quarter is just one example.
“It was a great ball,” Robinson said. “ It was really a fantastic ball. That’s something we practiced. He’s able to drop it in there, and I’m able to grab it.”
Trubisky’s decision to target Robinson on that play made it particularly encouraging. Running back Jordan Howard was wide open in the left flat, but Nagy said that Robinson was his first read. Trubisky trusted what he saw from his top receiver and went for the touchdown against man coverage.
“He threw it on time,” Nagy said.
There was more, too.
“It’s just his confidence,” said running back Tarik Cohen, who had 20 total touches for 174 yards and a nine-yard touchdown catch.
“When he gets in the game and after the huddle, [it’s] him making decisions, him making audibles, him making [hot reads]. That’s when he really turned it on today.”
That would speak to Trubisky’s development under Nagy. It took four games to show up.
Trubisky wasn’t perfect against the Bucs. He spun into defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul’s sack in the first quarter. He overthrew Javon Wims and Gabriel on passes he should complete.
But Trubisky made the right decisions on bad plays, whether it was throwing the ball out of the end zone on first-and-goal from the 3 early in the third quarter or throwing the ball into the ground when a screen to tight end Trey Burton was completely covered in the first half.
Trubisky made the big plays, too. He hit a stumbling Burton for a 39-yard touchdown to open the game. Receiver Taylor Gabriel caught seven passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
“To finally put a game together like we did today on offense and the stats that he put up, it’s just a credit to his hard work that he put in,” center Cody Whitehair said. “It’s finally clicking for us.”
It won’t always click. The Bucs might turn out to be a bad team. Trubisky certainly will struggle again later this season. He’ll make throws that will cause fans to cringe again.
But Sunday also showed what he’s capable of under Nagy. It was step forward that could be a springboard for Trubisky in this season and beyond.
“It should be the start to a great season,” Gabriel said. “Leader. -Passion. He put the work in throughout the week, and that’s what you get.”