Bears and Mitch Trubisky send message, even if it fell incomplete in 30-27 loss
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CINCINNATI — Quarterback Mitch Trubisky has practiced his deep ball after every training-camp practice this year. He focuses on setting his feet and keeping his weight balanced before he lets the ball fly, lest he throw off his back foot and leave it short.
Coach Matt Nagy trusts him enough to take shots down the field.
On Thursday, Nagy showed the league exactly that. Symbolically, it was on Trubisky’s first play of the preseason.
Coming off his most accurate week of camp, Trubisky barely overthrew receiver Kevin White running down the left sideline on the first snap of an eventual 30-27 loss to the Bengals.
It was just one play in an overanalyzed exhibition season. But It sent a message.
“We’re going to be aggressive all year long,” Trubisky said. “That’s coach’s mindset, and we love it.
“As skill players, and the offensive line, everyone’s gotta buy into that mentality that we’re gonna take shots. We just gotta make them work.”
Nagy has said throughout camp that he would rather his quarterback take chances down the field than check down to his running backs. That trial and error, he figures, hastens Trubisky’s mastery of the offense more than a safe throw.
After last season, it feels downright revolutionary. The last time Trubisky started a preseason game — the finale against the Browns last year — John Fox had him hand the ball off nine consecutive times before he put on his ball cap. Trubisky threw for 10 yards only after replacing Connor Shaw late in the game.
On Thursday, the Bears knew that they would try a deep ball if the Bengals played man defense with a high safety.
“And even if it’s incomplete — OK, obviously you want the completion — but sometimes you send your guys a message,” Nagy said. “You send the other team a message.”
The Bears heard it.
“We love to see that level of aggression from our head coach,” guard Kyle Long said. “And it shows confidence in this team.”
The pass didn’t work. Not much did. Trubisky went 2-for-4 for four yards on eight plays. The only first down he made was when he was hit late by defensive end Carlos Dunlap after White dropped a third-down pass.
“I need to keep my eyes on it for a second longer,” White said.
Later, Trubisky was sacked by defensive tackle Geno Atkins. After Trubisky was forced to take a timeout to regroup, center Cody Whitehair was called for holding on the quarterback’s scramble.
Nagy was pleased with Trubisky’s operation of the offense — the verbiage and the huddle were clean, and he identified the middle linebacker before each snap — but less so with his play.
“Nothing extraordinary, but nothing bad,” Nagy said. “It’s early for them right now. It will be fun as we get them some more snaps, let them get into a rhythm offensively. It’s hard to judge off of eight plays.”
Neither coach nor quarterback was pleased with the play of the starting offense after what they considered a strong week of practice. The Bears’ backups rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter. After they gave it back, they had a chance to tie the score with 50 seconds left, but Cody Parkey left a 52-yard field-goal try short.
“It was surprising to see us come out slow and sloppy,” Trubisky said.
They have time to get it right, to make those deep shots count.
“Coach is going to have that aggressive mindset,” Trubisky said, “and we have to have that, too.”