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Bears film study: Trubisky’s deep throws, 4th-&-1 stops, Jackson’s game-saving play

A look at some key elements of the Bears’ 33-27 win over the Vikings that kept them in the NFC wild-card chase.

Trubisky looked sharper on deep balls Sunday than he had all season.
AP Photos

Re-watching Bears games hasn’t been nearly as torturous the last few weeks.

The team’s recent film has been full of fresh ideas and variety, as opposed to the continuous slog that preceded it — not just during the six-game losing streak, but even in the 5-1 start. Their 33-27 win over the Vikings on Sunday was far from a masterpiece, but it was intriguing.

Most of the entertainment lately has been on offense, and the Bears are finally making headway with their ground game and a lot of short, roll-out passes. But it wasn’t all dink-and-dunk. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky had some big plays, too.

He connected on three passes of 20 yards or more, including a nice throw to Allen Robinson in the first quarter that helped keep the Vikings’ pass coverage from clamping down on short passes the rest of the day.

On third-and-three at the Vikings’ 29-yard line, Trubisky dropped back and quickly lofted a perfectly placed ball to Robinson on the right sideline.

With the Vikings’ secondary playing tight coverage and only one safety over the top, Robinson shook rookie cornerback Jeff Gladney two yards off the line of scrimmage and raced away for a 24-yard catch. Trubisky’s pass was right on target and on time, allowing Robinson space to turn for the catch and get both feet down.

There was another sharply executed pass from Trubisky to Darnell Mooney near the end of the third quarter on which Mooney outran Vikings cornerback Chris Jones across the middle for a 22-yard catch.

This was an example of clear-cut improvement by Trubisky: He hit Mooney in stride on a throw that covered 28 air yards, and because his throw was so precise, Mooney kept going for another three yards before Jones pushed him out of bounds. Trubisky and Nick Foles have had problems with these types of passes, often throwing behind the receiver so that he can’t make the catch or can’t do much after it.

Trubisky’s final big throw was his longest. On second-and-seven from his own 41, he hit Robinson for 35 yards. Robinson froze Jones with a fake eight yards into his route up the middle, then cut to the right side of the field with at least two yards of separation.

Just like the other two long completions, this was a high-end throw by Trubisky. His pass traveled 29 air yards to hit Robinson in stride, and Robinson was able to get another 17 yards after the catch to put the Bears in the red zone. He nearly went out at the Vikings’ 27-yard line but hit the brakes hard and stayed in bounds by inches as Jones overran him.

Those three plays were enormous. They accounted for 81 yards in a game in which Trubisky otherwise completed 12 of 18 passes for 121 yards for an average of just 6.7 yards per throw. The three deep completions increased his passer rating from 81.0 to 97.7.

Defensive diamonds

The Bears’ recent defensive struggles have been unsettling, and that problem continued by allowing 27 points and 407 yards to a Vikings team that previously averaged 25.6 and 385.6, respectively.

But there were bright spots. While these weren’t officially turnovers, the Bears came up with two fourth-down stops in Minnesota’s end of the field that led to field goals.

When the Vikings went for it on fourth-and-one at their own 34-yard line midway through the second quarter, defensive linemen Bilal Nichols and John Jenkins got great movement and met running back Dalvin Cook one yard behind the line of scrimmage. They both held on to take him down, and the Bears got to the Vikings’ 17-yard line before Cairo Santos’ 35-yard field goal put them up 20-7.

Trailing 30-27, the Vikings had no choice but to go for it on fourth-and-one at their own 29 coming out of the two-minute warning. They opted to pass this time but never had a chance because of defensive lineman Brent Urban ripping into the backfield.

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins dropped back five yards and had no time to scan the field as Urban raced toward him. He immediately scrambled backward, retreating to the 12-yard line before flinging a pass off his back foot that had no shot at being completed.

Star defensive tackle Akiem Hicks deserves some credit for that play, too. Vikings right guard Ezra Cleveland and right tackle Brian O’Neill double-teamed Hicks, leaving Urban unblocked.

Inches from defeat

It wouldn’t be a Bears win without a harrowing finish.

The Vikings were going for the win from the Bears’ 33-yard line on the final play, but the Bears escaped when Cousins’ heave ricocheted into the hands of veteran special-teamer and defensive back Sherrick McManis for a game-ending interception.

What might have gone unnoticed in real time, though, is how close the Vikings were to completing the pass and getting a chance to win on a walk-off extra point.

Cousins’ pass was headed right into the waiting hands of wide receiver Bisi Johnson before Bears safety Eddie Jackson came from behind and deflected it. Jackson’s play was even more important than McManis coming down with the interception.