Coach Matt Nagy’s commitment to the running game arguably has been the best sign for a Bears offense that has been hot and cold in both its games this season. But when it came time to put the hammer down Sunday against the Giants, Nagy put his faith in quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
Driving for what would have been a game-clinching touchdown with a 17-13 lead in the fourth quarter, the Bears gained 55 yards on six carries. Running back David Montgomery had gains of 11, 10 and 23 yards, plus a nine-yard gain that was nullified by a chop-block penalty on right guard Germain Ifedi.
But on third-and-two from the Giants’ 36 after Montgomery was stopped for no gain, Nagy put the ball in Trubisky’s hands. His third-down pass was batted at the line of scrimmage by Giants defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. On fourth-and-two, Trubisky’s short pass to tight end Jimmy Graham was tipped by Giants linebacker Blake Martinez — and caught by Bears right tackle Bobby Massie for a four-yard gain and a first down.
“We could have run it there on third-and-two, and they know that’s coming, and [there are] times when you’ve got to be able to still run it,” Nagy acknowledged. “But we like, too . . . putting Mitch as a runner on a naked, on a movement. We get him outside the pocket. [It] created another element.”
Giving a quarterback such as Trubisky a run-pass option on crucial downs is sound business. But as versatile as Trubisky is, he still needs work on his ability to improvise when he’s forced off-script.
“[The Giants] decided to zone us out in that situation,” Nagy said. “Early in the season, you have to be prepared for unscouted looks, and that was an unscouted look they gave us, and that’s fine. When those unscouted looks happen, you rely on your players to make plays. We were lucky on that fourth down to have it tipped in the air to Bobby. But that’s part of the game.
“I think you look back and say, ‘Are there spots in that game where you would have maybe done some different things? Yeah, for sure. But I wish ultimately we would have scored a touchdown on that drive.”
It’s a quirk of football metrics that Trubisky had a 104.2 passer rating against the Lions and a 78.0 against the Giants, yet the Giants game was the better performance. If receiver Anthony Miller makes a catch of a perfectly thrown ball in the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown in the first quarter against the Giants — and Lions cornerback Justin Coleman doesn’t drop an easy interception in the first quarter in Week 1, Trubisky’s rating against the Giants (95.2) would have been better than against the Lions (92.6).
Upon further review, Trubisky still was inconsistent from one half to the other against the Giants, continuing a trend in his two-plus seasons in Nagy’s offense. But the downturn in the second half against the Giants was not as alarming as the poor first half against the Lions. Neither of his two interceptions was of the “What was he thinking?” variety. He had bad breaks and a good one and came out a winner.
That works for now, with the Bears 2-0 and continuing a string of winnable games. They travel to the Falcons (0-2) on Sunday, followed by home games against the Colts (1-1) and Buccaneers (1-1) and a road game against the Panthers (0-2).
At some point, their QB play will have to be better. But for now, you can’t blame Nagy for having faith in Trubisky. Like any coach, he’ll believe in his guy until he doesn’t.