The first 2½ quarters of their first game together, coach Matt Nagy and quarterback Mitch Trubisky were unstoppable.
The Bears led 20-0 in the 2018 season opener at Lambeau Field before quarterback Aaron Rodgers arose like a stunned movie monster, returning from a left knee injury to rally the Packers to a 24-23 victory.
“There’s that sense and feeling in the locker room, especially on the offensive side, that we just need to continue to dig deeper and get over that hump of just putting up 20, 23 or however many points,” Trubisky said after the game. “Getting to the 30s, getting the touchdowns, converting in the red zone, converting on third downs. Really dictate the game instead of giving them a chance at the end like we did.
“I feel like it really falls on me and the offense.”
The offense, 2½ years later, still hasn’t answered the call.
On Sunday night at Lambeau Field, Trubisky has an opportunity — probably his last — to do it himself. At the same venue.
At stake is the revival of the 5-5 Bears’ season — and Trubisky’s career.
“It’s a big opportunity,” said Trubisky, who will start for the first time in nine weeks. “Coming back, it’s obviously a big rivalry game, and then us being in the situation where we are now, we need to find a way to get in the win column.”
It would be as poetic as it is unlikely. By the time they take the field, the Bears will have gone a full six weeks without a win. They’re trending downward, too. They’ll make game-time medical decisions on starting left tackle Charles Leno (toe) and Pro Bowl defensive lineman Akiem Hicks (hamstring).
The Bears’ offense will try to unlock a running game that has plummeted to last in the NFL in yards per game. Their defense will face a Packers team — led by Rodgers, who leads the league with a 115.8 passer rating — that was refocused by a loss to the Colts a week earlier.
The Packers have always provided a benchmark for the Bears to measure themselves. Trubisky got his first start in 2017 because Mike Glennon was so brutal at Lambeau Field. Nagy made his head-coaching debut the next year in the same place. The Bears went 12-3 after losing the opener to the Packers and clinched the NFC North by beating their rivals later that year at Soldier Field.
Last year, the Packers were the first team to expose the Bears as frauds. They smothered Trubisky during the season-opening Thursday night showcase typically reserved for Super Bowl champions. The Bears scored three points, and Trubisky had a 62.1 passer rating.
Then the Packers were the team to officially eliminate the Bears from the playoffs, beating them at Lambeau Field when their last-gasp trick play fell one lateral shy of the goal line.
“All games matter,” Nagy said. “But when you’re going through this type of rivalry that’s so significant and so real throughout history, it’s important that we all understand the magnitude of it. So we talk about it. We make sure [players] understand that.”
Trubisky does, too. Not that he and Nagy have spoken about it.
They don’t have to.
“There hasn’t been one thing said to him in regard to how meaningful it is for him, to me or to any of our coaches,” Nagy said. “And I like that. He’s got these horse blinders on — he understands what he’s gone through.
“I don’t think you need to say anything. And this is probably me speaking for him, and I’m just going off the actions that I see with him. I don’t think he needs to say a whole lot. I think he’s an extremely competitive person that realizes what he’s gone through and where he’s at.”