The latest Mitch Trubisky surge keeps hope alive
This is the best iteration of Trubisky to date, but not likely a game-changing breakthrough. Even if Matt Nagy’s offense failed Trubisky, there’s not enough time for it to save him with the Bears.
Here we go again.
For some Bears fans, it is sweet vindication. For others, it’s their worst nightmare: Mitch Trubisky is on a roll.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft has recovered from an early-season benching to boost Matt Nagy’s sagging offense and rekindle flickering hopes that he ain’t done yet.
After shaking off the rust from a seven-game layoff against the Packers on Nov. 29 at Lambeau Field, Trubisky has posted passer ratings of 108.3 in a 34-30 loss to the Lions and 126.7 in a 36-7 victory over the Texans — the first time the Bears have scored 30 or more offensive points in back-to-back games since 2013 under Marc Trestman.
But we’ve been here so many times with Trubisky under Nagy that his latest spate of success seems more dubious than hopeful near the end of his fourth NFL season. The Trubisky résumé is littered with fool’s gold in two-game bursts — against the Buccaneers (154.6)/Dolphins (122.5) and Packers (120.4)/49ers (113.5) in 2018; against the Lions (118.1)/Cowboys (115.5) in 2019.
Even this season, Trubisky followed his three-touchdown second half against the -Lions (138.5) with a two-touchdown first half against the Giants (136.1) — four consecutive quarters with five touchdowns, no interceptions and a 138.6 passer rating — and then sank right back into mediocrity. The next week, a third-quarter interception against the Falcons exposed Trubisky’s chronic issues with reading defenses, and he was replaced by veteran Nick Foles.
Since then, the Bears have switched play-callers from Nagy to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. They’ve found a makeshift offensive-line combination that has energized the running game after crippling injuries to left guard James Daniels and right tackle Bobby Massie. And they’ve emphasized playing to Trubisky’s strengths, using more rollouts and naked bootlegs and going up-tempo to produce a rhythm the offense previously lacked with either Trubisky or Foles.
It paid dividends against the Texans, who have the 30th-ranked defense in the NFL. Trubisky was more efficient than prolific. He stayed away from the deep ball — a source of his inconsistency — and threw touchdown passes of five, 12 and three yards, all on well-executed plays.
“You’re having a little bit of that continuity,” passing-game coordinator Dave Ragone said. “And you’ve got a situation where guys are starting to jell together in different -areas. What I’ve seen from him is exactly what I’ve seen throughout his career as he’s matured — someone who’s gonna go out there with confidence and let it go and play free. I think you’re seeing that now. I love the way he’s playing.”
It earned the Bears a much-needed victory but also left a significant question: Is this Trubisky real? Is it possible the Bears have finally found the sweet spot for their anointed franchise quarterback?
“I think it’s real,” coach Matt Nagy said, and he pointed to the difference in Trubisky since his benching.
“At that point in time, it’s really hard to accept for Mitchell,” Nagy said. “But I do believe that’s going to end up really helping him out in his career. It’s enabled him to take a step back and see where we’re at. And now these last three games we’re feeling an identity in this offense that he’s a big part of.
“The guys are playing with confidence, and I do believe that’s real for Mitchell right now and I like where he’s at. He’s just kind of staying in his own lane, and he’s being a leader and making plays and that’s what’s important.”
This is the best iteration of Trubisky to date but not likely a game-changing breakthrough. Even if Nagy’s offense failed Trubisky, there’s not enough time for it to save him with the Bears. This offensive uptick just happens to coincide with a run of bottom-10 opposing defenses — the Lions are 28th in yards, 31st in scoring; the Texans are 30th in yards, 24th in scoring. Asked what this late-season production means for Trubisky long-term, even Nagy seemed to know the score.
“Every player in this league has their own story, and we don’t know where Mitch’s story is gonna end up,” Nagy said. “But all we can do is focus on where he’s at right now, and when you talk about a kid who has been through a lot in three, four years, for him to be able to get where he’s at now, the way he’s doing it, that’s a credit to him. You can’t take that away from him.”