At the outset of the pandemic, some Chicago-area establishments couldn’t resist using social-distancing signs to jab quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
With slight variations, the gist of the joke was that the recommended six-foot distance was akin to the space between a Trubisky throw and an open receiver.
And among the myriad aspects of Trubisky’s game to knock, it’s his accuracy that comes up most frequently. His completion percentage dropped from nearly 67% in 2018 to a little over 63% last season, and his 55.6% effort in the Bears’ 27-23 victory Sunday against the Lions was the fourth-worst among Week 1 quarterbacks going into the Monday night games.
The explanations are never straightforward, though, because there are too many factors involved to simply state that completions were good throws and incomplete passes weren’t.
Upon film review, Trubisky threw 20 accurate passes (16 caught) and 15 that were off (four caught), and there was one in which he and Anthony Miller were so out of sync that it couldn’t be graded.
Eight of Trubisky’s inaccurate passes came in the second half, when he rallied the Bears from a 23-6 deficit with three touchdown passes. That charge began with Trubisky finding Miller on a seam route among four defenders with a beautifully placed 18-yard pass. It was the Bears’ first third-down conversion after failing on seven straight.
With three minutes left and the Bears down 10, the Lions flushed Trubisky out of the pocket, and he fired precisely to tight end Jimmy Graham for 16 yards to reach the 1-yard line. Quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo called it a “Pro Bowl” pass by Trubisky.
“It’s impossible to get any better than that,” he said. “So that’s the one, to me, that stood out.”
It was also during the comeback, however, that Trubisky threw one of his worst passes.
Allen Robinson had Lions cornerback Darryl Roberts beaten by two steps down the right sideline with 9:23 left, and it could’ve been a 43-yard touchdown. Instead, Trubisky badly underthrew him and allowed Roberts to break it up. The Bears punted two plays later.
Those are plays that former offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich used to refer to as “layups.” For a team that has as much trouble getting its offense rolling as the Bears do, those misses are devastating.
“The one I know he would like to have back is the go ball to A-Rob,” said DeFilippo, who pointed out that Trubisky was flat-footed and had his feet too far apart to put the necessary power into the throw. “He had a step on him, and we’ve got to make that throw.”
Trubisky misfired on another critical play six minutes into the game on fourth-and-seven. The play had a chance as Ted Ginn broke from the right side across the middle of the field, but Trubisky threw so far behind him that Ginn could barely get a finger on it.
Coach Matt Nagy thought Lions linebacker Reggie Ragland tipped the ball, but the replay showed he wasn’t even close. It was simply a poor throw.
“It was there; it was open,” Nagy said. “I think it was going to be a good play.”
Inaccurate throws undermine otherwise-smart play designs. The deep shot to Robinson and, to a lesser extent, the fourth-down throw to Ginn looked like they would’ve worked.
Trubisky also had a short throw to David Montgomery for a possible touchdown batted down at the line and an overthrow to Robinson that was nearly picked off. He had misses on several easy ones out of the backfield, as well.
But the throw to Graham was ideal, as was the two-yard touchdown pass he threw in which only Graham had a shot at it with the defender on his back. His late touchdown passes to Javon Wims and Miller were right on the mark.
It’s that inconsistency that’s maddening, though. That lofty vision of how accurate Trubisky could be keeps colliding with the reality of how often he misses.