1st-and-10: Mitch Trubisky would be big chip for Bears in coach derby
Even in October, Jim Harbaugh was a Mitch Trubisky fan.
“He liked him coming out,” John Harbaugh, Jim’s brother and the coach of the Ravens, said before the Bears-Ravens game Oct. 15. “I did talk to him about the quarterbacks. I always do. And he thought very highly of him.”
If Jim Harbaugh liked Trubisky then, he’s sure to like him now. If Harbaugh has any interest in returning to the NFL next season, there’s little doubt that Trubisky would be an enticing lure for a coach with a reputation of developing quarterbacks.
Therein lies one of the most encouraging facets to Trubisky’s best day as a pro Sunday against the Bengals. Not only was it the most tangible sign of progress for the rookie from North Carolina, but it enhances his value as the biggest chip in the Bears’ likely attempt to attract a top-notch coach for 2018.
Trubisky was 25-for-32 for a season-high 271 yards — nearly the exact number of miles from Mentor High School in suburban Cleveland to Paul Brown Stadium — and one touchdown for a 112.4 passer rating. He also scored on a four-yard run on a well-executed zone-read play that gave the Bears a 19-7 lead in the third quarter.
It remains to be seen if that was a glimpse of the future or Trubisky and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains catching the Bengals at the right time — with five defensive starters missing on a short week after an emotional and particularly physical game against the rival Steelers. But you can bet that any prospective head coach is more likely to look at the results and the tape and see the possibilities than consider the circumstances and dismiss it.
The Bears often get beaten down in the ‘Which is the most appealing job’ survey. Not this time. Even with the baggage that is inherent at Halas Hall, Trubisky puts the Bears near the top of any list.
2. The Bears’ season-high 482 yards and 33 points was a bit of redemption for the embattled Loggains, but the spike in production was almost as indicting as it was impressive. The Bears went from the 10th-worst total-yardage total since the end of the Ditka era against the 49ers last week (147 yards) to the fifth-best total against the Bengals on Sunday.
Which is the real Bears’ offense? Saturday’s game against a Lions team still in the hunt seems like a pretty good litmus test — an indoor game against a Lions defense that ranks 26th in total yards and has allowed more yards in the past five games (397.8 average) than every team in the NFL except the Bengals and Giants.
3. Talk about a Victory Monday. It was a particularly uplifting and emotional day at Halas Hall with tight end Zach Miller making his first appearance at the team’s practice facility since suffering a torn popliteal artery in his left leg against the Saints on Oct. 29 that required emergency vascular surgery to save his leg.
Miller always has been one of the most affable players on the team, so it’s no surprise how well he’s handled the adversity of the devastating and scary injury.
“Things could be worse,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a part of me to sit back and think, ‘Why me?’ If anything, I know that I’ll be better when this is done. This isn’t the end of my life. There’s tons of things I’ll still be able to do … everything that’s been conveyed to me is I’m going to be completely fine after we get through this.
“So now it’s just grind through this, use this for any amount of positivity you can and carry on, because we’ve got a lot of life left to lead. Trying to have as much fun doing that as possible.”
4. With Jordan Howard’s 147 yards boosting another stellar rushing effort (232 yards on 38 carries, 6.1 avg.), the Bears have moved up from 12th to seventh in the NFL in rushing yards per game (124.5) and from 10th to fifth in yards per carry (4.5), pending the Patriots-Dolphins game Monday night.
5. After cutting down on negative running plays in the previous three games (six), the Bears had seven against the Bengals to increase their NFL lead to 58. The Bills are next with 53.
6. A coaching change appears to be a fait accompli, but cornerback Prince Amukamara is among those hoping a strong finish will make a statement in favor of John Fox.
“We’re definitely aware of what’s being talked about,” Amukamara said. “We’re not just robots that go in a closet at night. We’re in the know. We’re on Twitter and stuff like that. So I really hope that we showed this organization that, hey, this is what happens when we play on one accord. One thing that’s great about this group is that from coaches, players, everyone loves each other and has each other’s back”
7. The Bears won the coin toss for the 10th time in 13 games Sunday, but deferring still doesn’t give them any boost. Even on a day they gained 482 yards, the Bears went four-and-out on the opening drive of the second half — a net of 14 yards even with Howard’s 16-yard run on the first play from scrimmage.
Overall, the Bears are averaging 5.6 plays and 16.3 yards when they take the second-half kickoff — with one field goal, eight punts, and a missed field goal in the 10 drives.
8. The Bears’ defense has allowed only one touchdown in two games since linebacker Danny Trevathan returned. Trevathan had 10 tackles against the Bengals after getting 11 against the 49ers.
In fact, with six key players out — linebackers Leonard Floyd, Willie Young and Jerrell Freeman, nose tackle Eddie Goldman, defensive end Mitch Unrein and safety Quintin Demps — the Bears held the Bengals to 234 yards and 4.4 yards per play.
9. Josh McCown Ex-Bears Player of the Week Award: Bills wide receiver Deonte Thompson had one target Sunday against the Colts, but made it count — fighting off pass interference to make a tumbling 34-yard reception from third-stringer Joe Webb in the snow in overtime at New Era Field to set up LeSean McCoy’s 21-yard touchdown run in the Bills’ 13-7 victory.
10. Bear-ometer: 5-11 — at Lions (L); vs. Browns (W); at Vikings (L).
Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.