Mitch Trubisky got his second chance Sunday night, but he fumbled it. The Packers picked it up and returned it for a touchdown.
They intercepted a pass in the end zone, too, and then picked him off a second time for good measure. They dared the Bears quarterback to keep up with Aaron Rodgers and left him so far back in the dust that most of Trubisky’s statistics in a 41-25 loss came during garbage time — though that would be an appropriate description of the entire offensive attack.
For perhaps the final time, Trubisky’s mortal sins were upchucked onto the about-to-be-frozen tundra of Lambeau Field for all the NFL to see. Comparing him to Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson — two quarterbacks available when Ryan Pace traded up to draft Trubisky four years ago — almost feels cruel.
As stagnant and ineffective as Nick Foles has been, he never committed three turnovers in a single game this season. He had two in one game, and one in all the others.
Trubisky reached three turnovers midway through the third quarter.
“You’re just not going to win games, or be in games, if you turn the ball over,” Trubisky said. “And that’s on me.”
Four years after being drafted, Trubisky turns the ball over as though he doesn’t know better. Is it damning of Pace, who picked him? Or of head coach Matt Nagy, who has watched Trubisky get worse for each of the last three years? Or is Trubisky just what some feared the day he was drafted: a great athlete who is unnatural when he’s on the field?
Yes, yes and yes.
“The turnovers, for us, is what we can’t have,” Nagy said.
Trubisky’s first interception Sunday night was pure arrogance. Trailing 13-3, he completed three-consecutive passes for 44 yards. At the Packers’ 38, Trubisky ran a play-fake out of an I-formation and threw a deep corner route toward receiver Darnell Mooney. Trubisky thought Darnell Savage, the Packers’ safety, was playing the post; instead, he pivoted as the ball was being thrown and broke for the ball like a galloping center fielder and caught it in the end zone.
The Packers marched down the field and scored to go up 20-3.
On third-and-seven on the Bears’ next drive, Trubisky threw a nifty 12-yard completion to Mooney for a first down. The play came back, though, when left tackle Charles Leno was flagged for holding.
Forced to throw on third-and-17, Trubisky was swallowed up in the pocket. Outside linebacker Zadarius Smith sacked Trubisky, who fumbled as he landed face-first. Preston Smith, whom Leno had been blocking, picked up the fumble on the third bounce and ran 14 yards for a touchdown.
“Gotta take away the turnovers, gotta protect the football,” Trubisky said. “That’s pretty much the main thing I’m concerned with. I can’t put the defense in tough spots. I can’t take the offense off the field like that, with sudden changes, and just putting the ball in harm’s way.”
Nagy said that Trubisky’s fumble was not rooted in him being fazed by the hold. Trubisky’s facemask was grabbed on two occasions during the sack; Trubisky said it “would be nice to get a call and have that taken off the board,” but that the fumble was his fault.
“It’s my job to hang on to the football,” he said. “I’ve gotta do that.”
Trubisky coughed up another interception — again to Savage, who was one of three defenders covering Anthony Miller while Allen Robinson was open — on third-and-11 midway through the third quarter.
It was as unacceptable Sunday night as it was when Trubisky was a rookie. If he ever fixes it, he’ll do so while wearing another team’s jersey.
Trubisky was 26-for-46 passing for 242 yards, three touchdowns and had two interceptions. The three touchdowns the Bears scored came when they were down 24, 31 and 24 points.
The offense actually seemed to make greater sense with Trubisky playing instead of Foles. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor ran the ball more effectively with Trubisky under center. David Montgomery ran for a career-long 57 yards on the second play of the game.
Trubisky used his athleticism to turn play-action passes into real gains — until the game got out of hand that a run play seemed ridiculous.
The Bears’ helpless defense meant Trubisky needed to be perfect to give them a chance.
That meant the Bears never had one.
Trubisky was asked if he played well enough to start next week against the Lions. He wisely demurred from lobbying.
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” he said. “It was tough, like I said, just because of the turnovers early on and then being a hole.”