If Mitch Trubisky has the ’it’ factor, Lambeau Field is the place to show it
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Like probably every other quarterback the Bears have ever had, Mitch Trubisky is going to Lambeau Field thinking he has a plan.
“I have a really good idea of what this offense looks like and where we’re at and how we need to go about our business and execute our plays,” Trubisky said in advance of the Bears’ season opener against the Packers on Sunday night.
“[What’s] more of a mystery is what they’re going to run on defense. I’m sure they haven’t shown a lot in the preseason, but we know what the defensive coordinator [Mike Pettine] has done in the past, so you just try to be prepared as much as possible, and then you expect to execute your plays correctly and make the defense adjust to us. I feel pretty good where we’re at.”
Bears offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich is feeling it, too.
“I have total confidence in him and the guys around him,” Helfrich said. “The key is just getting off to the right start. When he’s been dialed in at practice, he’s been fantastic.”
But as boxer Mike Tyson famously said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” No matter how prepared he is, Trubisky’s focus will be challenged before he even takes a snap. The atmosphere of a prime-time, nationally televised game in front of a sellout crowd at Lambeau has an overwhelming, suffocating effect that tests the mettle of even the most confident quarterbacks.
And then the game starts.
Jay Cutler had started for three years in the NFL and was coming off a Pro Bowl season when he launched his Bears career at Lambeau in 2009. He threw three interceptions in the first half and four for the game for a 50.2 passer rating in a 21-15 loss.
And then it got worse. In 2011, Cutler was sacked six times and threw two picks for a 43.5 passer rating in a 10-3 loss at Lambeau. In 2012, he was sacked seven times and threw four more picks for a 28.2 rating in a 23-10 loss. In 2014, in just the first half, he threw an interception, was sacked three times and fumbled and was down 42-0. Every game seemed more miserable than the previous one. Three of the eight lowest-rated games in Cutler’s career happened at Lambeau — and he’s the most prolific quarterback in Bears history.
Cutler wasn’t great against the Packers even at home — 11 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions for a 79.5 rating. But he was significantly worse at Lambeau — four touchdown passes and 12 interceptions for a 50.2 rating. And, no, that doesn’t happen to everybody. The Lions’ Matthew Stafford has actually been better against the Packers at Lambeau (97.9) than at home (78.2).
Trubisky is supposed to have the “it” factor that Cutler lacked. Now’s the time to see at least a glimpse of it. Coach Matt Nagy is meticulous in the preparation of his quarterback, but there’s really no preparing Trubisky for what he’s about to face Sunday night. It’s possible that Trubisky, facing a Packers defense still adjusting to first-year coordinator Pettine, sails through without major incident — though that hasn’t happened at Lambeau since Rex Grossman overcame an early interception to throw for 262 yards and a touchdown in a 26-0 victory in the tone-setting 2006 opener.
More than likely, this will be a test of not only Trubisky’s preparedness, but his resilience. Can he take a hit — literally and figuratively?
“It’s part of the unknown,” Nagy said. “I don’t know exactly how he’ll react, but I just know who he is as a person, and I know he’ll listen — he’s going to be very coachable. I’m not worried about [him getting rattled].”