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Is there a worse time for struggling Mitch Trubisky to face former Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio? Probably not

There’s a nagging suspicion that the Broncos new head coach, having seen Trubisky every day in practice the previous two seasons, will have his defense perfectly set up to negate Mitch’s strengths and prey on his weaknesses.

Arizona Cardinals v Denver Broncos
Broncos coach Vic Fangio looks on from the sidelines during a preseason game against the Cardinals on Aug. 29.
Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

It was a fun, obvious storyline before the season began: The Bears against their former defensive coordinator, the sweatshirt-wearing, offense-wrecking Vic Fangio, in his first year as Broncos head coach. Wasn’t it nice? Here was one of those NFL scheduling coincidences that puts a smile on your face.

Now, with Mitch Trubisky coming off a bad loss to the Packers in the season opener, next Sunday’s Bears-Broncos matchup looks more like a cold shiver than a warm family reunion. There’s the nagging suspicion that Fangio, having seen Trubisky every day in practice the previous two seasons, will have his defense perfectly set up to negate Mitch’s strengths and prey on his weaknesses.

There’s the concern that, even if Trubisky goes out and buys 100 cell phones, Fangio will have his number.

Given that Chicago is already on edge following the flop against Green Bay, the thought of a second straight loss in a Super Bowl-hyped season could be enough to unglue an entire city.

And here you thought it was just another game!

It’s not just Trubisky who will be on notice in Denver in Week 2. Matt Nagy’s play-calling against the Packers seemed to have come out of an Intro to Football textbook. The Bears head coach will be matching wits with Fangio, who, if I haven’t mentioned this before, is very, very familiar with all things Bear. That includes Nagy’s playbook.

But playbooks are living things. They evolve. New plays are put in, and old ones are cut. Game plans are tailored to that week’s opponent. It means that Nagy will have some surprises for Fangio. And the loss to the Packers means that Nagy knows he’ll have to be more creative and do more to put Trubisky in a position to be successful. The quarterback was bad all by himself in Week 1, but the coach didn’t do anything to save Trubisky from himself.

Now, having said all that, you can take a pen to a leopard’s spots and create fascinating geometric patterns, but underneath all that ink are the same spots. Trubisky will be the same quarterback he was in all those games and practices in which he and Fangio took part together. Fangio surely knows all of Mitch’s tendencies. He also knows that Trubisky is capable of putting together a very good game the week after a bad one – bad being the 57.8 passing percentage and the 62.1 passer rating he had against the Packers.

But the point is, Fangio knows. He knows more about Trubisky than almost anybody in the league. How much of that knowledge can be absorbed and used effectively by a Broncos defense than ranked 22nd in the NFL last season? That will be one of the big questions heading into Sunday’s game.

The biggest one, though, is whether Trubisky will bounce back after a poor game. That’s independent of anything Fangio might do against him. How will Trubisky react to a very concerned Bears’ fan base staring a hole through him? In three games last season in which his passer rating was below 70.0, he twice rebounded the following week with a passer rating above 100.0. In the other game, a two-interception effort against the Vikings that led to a 61.9 rating, he missed the next two weeks with a shoulder injury.

If that history is any guide, we have the possibility of a better Mitch going against an all-knowing Vic.

So there’s hope, Bears fans.

We have a game that most people in Chicago looked upon as an easy-A class before the season began. Denver went 6-10 last year. But now, with the Bears feeling the sting of the Packers loss, facing Fangio and the Broncos looks more like advanced calculus.

The habits and leanings that Trubisky has shown since the Bears drafted him in 2017 were on display against Green Bay. He too often locked in on a receiver instead of scanning the field for an open teammate. Too many of his passes were off target. He needs to take a mop to those areas of his game, especially with Fangio waiting for him in Denver.

And if Nagy wants to add an element of surprise to the proceedings, he needs to at least pretend that the running game matters to him. His running backs had a combined 15 carries against the Packers. Fifteen carries are a warm-up. They’re the throat spray a singer uses before a concert.

So there will be a lot happening Sunday, even if it’s only the second game of the season. Fangio’s mind against Nagy’s mind. Fangio’s memory against Trubisky’s tendencies.

What seemed like a fun get-together of old friends has taken a much more serious turn. Who knew?