Coach Matt Nagy’s trust in Mitch Trubisky is at an all-time high.
“He’s much different than he was in 2018,” Nagy said. “Everything was going so fast for us, and he was still learning that system. We were 16-17 games into that year [and] still figuring out, ‘OK, he likes this play’ or ‘No, he doesn’t like this play’ as we were going through the games. So the trust factor in some concepts, you might not have [had] like you do right now.”
That trust goes two ways — Trubisky’s trust in what Nagy is doing. And Nagy’s trust in what Trubisky is thinking. Trubisky indeed has come a long way in that department. Many of the tweaks that invigorated the offense since he replaced Nick Foles as the starter in Week 12 were “things I’ve been asking for,” like moving the pocket and involving rookie tight end Cole Kmet, running back David Montgomery and wide receiver Allen Robinson more.
It’s still Nagy’s offense, but Trubisky has a much bigger hand in how it’s run these days. And Trubisky made it clear Wednesday that he wants Nagy to go for it Sunday in the Bears’ wild-card playoff game against the Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Bears’ best hope for an upset is to put as much pressure on the Saints as possible. In effect, bully the bully.
“I think we definitely need to open it up a little bit,” Trubisky said. “As far as staying aggressive, I like going for it on fourth down. That’s just a mindset, but I think, more importantly, we’ve got to score more touchdowns in the red zone.
“Once we get those, whether you’re converting on third down or fourth down, it’s important to stay on the field. But as we saw from [last week’s game against the Packers], it’s even more important to finish with touchdowns than field goals.
“Our special-teams unit is doing incredible, and we gotta keep that going. But we gotta help our team and put our defense in better positions by finishing with touchdowns. That just makes you a better offense and better team, so I think that’s the main improvement we want to see this week.”
The Bears’ offense hit the wall against the Packers after four consecutive games with 30 or more points against bottom-10 defenses. After averaging four touchdowns per game and 6.1 yards per play against the Lions, Texans, Vikings and Jaguars, the Bears scored one touchdown and averaged 4.8 yards per play against the Packers. They had scored touchdowns on 14 of 19 (73.7%) red-zone opportunities in the previous four games but were only 1-for-5 (20%) against Green Bay.
One area in which they were nearly as effective against the Packers as they were in the four-game uptick that provides hope for Sunday was third-down conversions. The Bears converted 42.2% of their third-down plays in the four-game run and 40% (6-for-15) against the Packers. But because they were more aggressive — they converted five of six fourth-down plays — the Bears’ third-down conversion rate effectively was 73.3% (11-for-15).
As the quarterback of a 10-point underdog — “We’ve got nothing to lose,” he said — Trubisky wants to let it all hang out against New Orleans, and Nagy will take that into consideration. If Trubisky has the confident look in his eye and is sure he can get that fourth-and-one, Nagy is more likely to go for it.
“Absolutely,” Nagy said. “When a quarterback comes to you with conviction on a play, if you don’t listen or you go a different way, that’s not good. When they feel something, you go with it.
“I think he’s grown in that way . . . he has more confidence now in what we’re doing schematically. I think good coaches listen to players that have conviction about the plays they like.”