A Mitch-ed bag as Trubisky has up-and-down night vs. Broncos
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Everybody refers to progress as progress except the NFL, which refers to it as “forward progress.” The league answers only to itself, so who cares if, by definition, the only kind of progress is the forward kind? Certainly not the people who also gave us “frozen tundra.’’
Whatever. We wanted to see Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky move ahead in his development Saturday night. We did not want to see a below-zero reading from the first-string offense, which is what happened in the previous preseason game, when Trubisky & Co. managed minus-one yard in eight plays against the Bengals.
Going against a very good Broncos defense Saturday, Trubisky was down and up and down. He had a fumble, threw some very nice passes and tossed an interception on a short pass over the middle.
There was more progression than regression for the second-year quarterback, but there were more episodes of regression than Trubisky or the Bears wanted.
He finished 9-for-14 for 90 yards, with a touchdown, an interception and a passer rating of 76.5. That’s the statistical definition of up and down.
Let’s start with the good. There were back-to-back plays offering hope. Back-to-back plays for those searching for signs of a brighter future for the Bears. Back-to-back plays to give you warm thoughts.
The first was a deep pass on third-and-15 to Kevin White in the first quarter. White beat Isaac Yiadom, and the result was a pass-interference penalty against the rookie cornerback. It doesn’t matter how White makes a play, whether it’s a catch, a penalty or a bribe. Any step is a positive one for the oft-injured receiver.
The next play was as beautifully thrown a ball as Trubisky has delivered in his short career. He split two defenders with a pass to rookie receiver Anthony Miller for a 19-yard gain.
The bad? In the previous series, he fumbled a snap he had no business fumbling, leading to a safety and a 2-0 Broncos’ lead. In the second quarter, he tried to squeeze a pass over the middle to Tarik Cohen. Broncos safety Justin Simmons stepped in front and took it away.
That’s how it was — some up, some down. Trubisky recognized a blitz on the Bears’ first series and found Trey Burton for a 19-yard gain. Good.
That interception. Groan.
“For the most part, I thought Mitch and those guys did a good job,’’ coach Matt Nagy said.
Later, he said, “Some of this stuff, I’m glad it’s happening now.’’
It was a preseason game. Who cares?
Throughout camp, the Bears have said that every snap is important. So they’re the ones who have placed more importance on preseason games than is usually there.
With a young quarterback learning on the job, exhibition games are a chance to make mistakes and make progress. So these games matter in terms of growth and improvement. We know Trubisky needs all the snaps he can get. We also know these games have no meaning in terms of victories and losses. And yet we hang on every throw he makes, every decision he makes, every facial expression he makes.
We want the regular season here now, but we judge the quarterback in these preseason games the way we would if it were a game in mid-November.
So which is it? A little of both.
We get mad at Trubisky when he doesn’t play well, and we get mad at ourselves for taking any part of these games seriously.
It’s not just Trubisky. The Bears have a new coach, Matt Nagy, who called plays in just six games as the Chiefs offensive coordinator last year.
We know he’s not bringing out the best cigars for a nickel-ante poker game. He doesn’t want regular-season opponents to have an idea of what’s coming when they play the Bears. That’s the idea, anyway. Or, if Nagy is showing the full array of his playbook, the Bears are in big trouble.
He did call a nice misdirection play on Trubisky’s seven-yard touchdown pass to Burton, who was all alone as he jogged into the end zone in the second quarter.
We’ll have a better idea of what Trubisky is when the regular-season games begin. Last year was 12 games of running in place. He played for a coaching staff that didn’t want to take any offensive risks and with players who were average at best.
What was it Nagy had said of Trubisky after two days of workouts with the Broncos last week?
“Arrow up,” he said. “It wasn’t one good day, one bad day. It was two good days. That’s what his expectations are. That’s what he knows that we want. He’s done that, and we’re not going to stop him.”
On Saturday, the arrow was spinning up and down and all around.