Bears film review: Breaking down QB Mitch Trubisky’s runs in win vs. Cowboys

A look at four Bears offensive plays from Thursday night’s sudden scoring explosion — and what worked in the 31-24 win against the Cowboys.

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Bears tight end JP Holtz makes a catch Thursday night.

Bears tight end JP Holtz makes a catch Thursday night.

Dylan Buell/Getty Images

A look at four offensive plays from the sudden scoring explosion Thursday night — and what worked in the Bears’ 31-24 win against the Cowboys:

Mitch’s planned runs

Why did quarterback Mitch Trubisky run more?

It starts with how the Cowboys played the read-option. The “squeeze/scrape” strategy forces their defensive end lined up on the same side as the running back to crash down on the handoff. The middle linebacker then “scrapes” over the top of the blockers to tackle the quarterback, if he keeps the ball.

Trubisky struggled earlier in the season in reading the end and deciding whether to hand off in such situations. That call was made easier because the Cowboys crashed so frequently. He then relied on his tackles to kick out the scraping linebacker when he kept the ball — and they did.

The Cowboys ran a slightly different version of that attack on Trubisky’s 23-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Safety Darian Thompson lined up next to middle linebacker Sean Lee and played the scraper role.

Trubisky took the shotgun snap and faked the handoff up the middle to David Montgomery, who was lined up to his left. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence crashed down on Montgomery. Trubisky kept the ball and ran left. Charles Leno kicked out safety Thompson to create a lane. Trubisky planted his left foot at the 17 and ran through a Xavier Woods arm tackle.

“Our tackles did a great job of kicking out, and he hit it up in there,” coach Matt Nagy said Friday. “And so that kind of stuff — between coaching with our offensive coaches, between executing with the line and decision-making with the quarterback — when you put it together, it’s hard to stop.”

Mitch’s unplanned runs

Trubisky’s scrambles were partly a result of the Cowboys’ defensive scheming, too. Dallas runs a lot of end-tackle stunts — meaning their two linemen begin their pass rush in their regular lanes and then switch paths to confuse the blockers.

“When that happens, you can get out of whack a little bit, and you can create lanes for the quarterback,” Nagy said. “When you push vertical up into the pocket, you see nothing but green grass, you take off. And that’s what he did a few times.”

One example: On first-and-10 from the Cowboys’ 34 with 56 seconds left in the first half, Trubisky lined up in the shotgun with three receivers right, one left and Montgomery to his right. Lawrence, who lined up outside right tackle Cornelius Lucas, stunted inside, while left defensive tackle Maliek Collins crashed down toward Lucas. That opened up the right flank, and Trubisky rolled that way before eventually scrambling for five yards and running out of bounds.

The big screen

Nagy had his best play-calling game of the year — and his best decision was a 30-yard screen pass to little-used tight end J.P. Holtz about a minute into the second quarter.

Trubisky lined up under center with Holtz as an in-line blocker to his left. By the time he dumped the screen down to his tight end, there were six Cowboys pass rushers bearing down on him — and who had run past Holtz.

Holtz had left guard James Daniels, right guard Rashaad Coward and left tackle Charles Leno lined up in front of him to block when he caught the screen at the 42. He got tackled at the 9.

“I was a little surprised how open I was,” Holtz said. “I thought maybe I was going to score. It was a nice play. We played well together.”

Nagy saves film of his plays that work well to show later — to his players or in a coaching clinic. The screen will be one of them.

“We caught them in a blitz, and sometimes if you run that same play versus drop eight, it’s a bad play-call,” Nagy said. “It ends up being a good play-call. We got them in a blitz, and then the guys executed it. Timing, the execution, the details of why you run that route, why you block the way you block on that type of gap screen.

“It was just really neat, too. I think the details of Leno and James Daniels, in them working vertically downfield and setting up the angles for the DBs to make a decision, and then J.P. is able to scoot in there and get another 10 yards.”

The fumble

Montgomery’s only blemish in a 20-carry, 86-yard night was a fumble around midfield with three minutes to play in the third quarter. As he twisted into the Cowboys’ defenders, he backed into lineman Michael Bennett — who grabbed Montgomery’s face mask. Trubisky, who was nearby, actually motioned to the official before the play was over, asking for a face mask flag.

Cowboys defenders ripped at the ball as Montgomery fought forward, with Joe Thomas jarring it out and Jaylon Smith picking it up. Trubisky actually tackled Smith.

“Obviously, we can’t have the fumble, and he knows that,” Nagy said. “I didn’t even say anything to him after he did it. I already know — I mean, he got the ball the very next play [on offense].”

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