Two games into quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s second season in coach Matt Nagy’s offense, it’s too early to condemn him after a slow start. But it’s about time to lower the bar.
Just as Trubisky skeptics have to stop looking for a better option — the Bears aren’t going there — Trubisky believers of any degree would be well-advised to stop thinking of Trubisky as the No. 2 pick in the draft. He ain’t that.
You can’t discount the possibility that the struggling Bears catch fire, but for now it looks like this will be a seasonlong battle against regression. Comparing Trubisky to the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes has become unreasonable. Elite quarterbacks make their coaches look like geniuses. At this point, Trubisky needs a genius to make him look like a quarterback.
Nagy would be doing well just to get to that point. Trubisky has been a starter in Nagy’s offense for 16 games, a full NFL regular season. His two starts this season should be among his best but instead are among his worst. His 62.1 rating against the Packers in the season opener ranks 15th among his 16 starts in Nagy’s offense. His 70.0 rating against the Broncos ranks 12th.
It’s true that Trubisky also started slowly last season, when he was hot-and-cold against the Packers (77.2 rating) and Seahawks (83.0). But that was Year 1. This is Year 2. He should be better, not worse.
Likewise, the argument that Trubisky has faced tougher defenses in Weeks 1-2 this season rings a bit hollow in Year 2, a reminder that his Pro Bowl season of 2018 was built on success against bad defenses. His five most efficient games were against teams that ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in opposing passer rating — the Buccaneers (32nd), Dolphins (18th), Lions (30th), Packers (28th) and 49ers (31st). In four games against the three defenses in the top 10 — the Bills, Vikings and Patriots — Trubisky’s average rating was 73.4.
At this point, it doesn’t appear much has changed. Trubisky needs the wind at his back, with all the pieces perfectly in place, to succeed.
Alex Smith looks more and more like an apt model. A former No. 1 pick who spent his early years being not Aaron Rodgers, Smith became a moderately efficient quarterback on playoff teams under Andy Reid, Doug Pederson and Nagy in Kansas City, ranking 14th, 13th, 10th and 16th in passer rating in his first four seasons with the Chiefs. It wasn’t until Year 5 that Smith blossomed, throwing for 4,042 yards and leading the NFL in passer rating at 104.7.
Right now, Trubisky would need a pogo stick to clear the bar where Mahomes is setting it. But lower it a bit, and Trubisky still has a chance to be a success with the Bears.
2. Kicker Eddy Pineiro had a great moment Sunday, but it’s a little too early to anoint him the heir to Robbie Gould after a big game at Mile High Stadium. Kicking field goals at Mile High is like hitting at Coors Field.
Greater challenges await Pineiro: avoiding a letdown after the high of a game-winning 53-yard field goal and kicking at Soldier Field. It’s a long season, but Pineiro is well on his way. Cody Parkey, by the way, was 4-for-4 on field goals at this point in 2018.
3. Pineiro’s 53-yard field goal was the Bears’ longest game-winning field goal in the last minute since Paul Edinger kicked a 54-yarder with two seconds left in regulation to beat the Lions 23-20 on Dec. 24, 2000, at the Pontiac Silverdome.
Pineiro’s kick was the first time the Bears have turned defeat into victory in the final seconds since Gould’s 49-yarder beat the Raiders 22-20 on Oct. 4, 2015, at Soldier Field. And it was the first time it was done in walk-off fashion since Gould’s 41-yard field goal beat the Panthers 23-22 on Oct. 28, 2012, at Soldier Field.
4. In the wild celebration on the field after Pineiro’s kick, Bears linebacker Khalil Mack made a point to seek out beleaguered Broncos left tackle Garett Bolles, who had four holding penalties. Only one was for holding Mack.
‘‘He gave me a big hug after the game and told me: ‘Keep your head up. Let’s get together this offseason,’ ’’ Bolles said. ‘‘I give him mad credit. When you’re going against a guy like that, those are games that can change your whole life. You can put yourself in a situation where you can take care of your family for a long time.
‘‘I feel like I did a lot of good things. I feel like I did block him and move him along, but there were times that we were going at it, and that’s what’s going to happen. With him giving me a hug . . . he said I was a good football player. I believe I’m a good football player . . . and I’m really grateful for his respect.’’
5. Give Broncos coach Vic Fangio credit for going for the victory after Joe Flacco’s touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders with 31 seconds left. It was only the second time in Broncos history they went for a two-point conversion to win in the final two minutes. The other was in 2008, when Jay Cutler threw a two-point conversion pass to Eddie Royal to beat the Chargers 39-38.
6. The Bears didn’t allow a sack and rushed for 153 yards against the Broncos. But the offensive line, while much improved over the opening performance against the Packers, still has a lot of room for improvement.
Running backs David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen and Mike Davis combined for 81 yards on 25 carries (3.2-yard average). Ten of their carries were for one yard or less and 15 were for three yards or less.
‘‘I thought the offensive line did a really good job in pass protection,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘In the run game, there were . . . some mental mistakes that we correct. But what we need to do is fix it now. We can’t be making mental mistakes in Weeks 9, 10, 11. That stuff needs to be fixed now. If that happens, instead of a four-yard run, we get a nine- or 10-yard run. That’s what I’m looking for.’’
7. Nagy is unfazed by the Bears’ slow start on offense. They’re averaging 263.5 yards and 9.5 points through two games. That’s fairly similar to a slow start last season.
‘‘Fortunately for us, we have a pretty good defense,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘We’re able to work though that. We feel good with where we’re at. It just comes down to more rhythm and keep trusting one another and keep fighting through it. Eventually, it’ll crack. And when it does, I think it’s going to be pretty good.’’
8. The Bears couldn’t have asked for a much better early schedule of opponents — three very winnable road games against the Broncos, Redskins and Raiders (in London) and the two toughest pre-bye games at home against the Packers and Vikings. Anything less than 4-1 would be a disappointment.
Now the football gods seem to be in their favor. Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who had missed one game to injury in 19 NFL seasons, is unlikely to play against the Bears on Oct. 20 at Soldier Field after suffering a thumb injury Sunday against the Rams that required surgery. If the Bears continue to falter in the first half, it’s their own fault.
9. Josh McCown Ex-Bear of the Week Award: Ravens linebacker Pernell McPhee shared a sack of Kyler Murray and had two tackles for loss in a 23-17 victory against the Cardinals. McPhee played 40 of 60 defensive snaps.
10. Bear-ometer: 9-7 — at Redskins (W); vs. Vikings (L); at Raiders in London (W); vs. Saints (W); vs. Chargers (W); at Eagles (L); vs. Lions (W); at Rams (L); vs. Giants (W); at Lions (W); vs. Cowboys (W); at Packers (L); vs. Chiefs (L); at Vikings (L).