Despite run-heavy plan, Mitch Trubisky shows signs of growth, stardom
BALTIMORE — Mitch Trubisky looked like “Mitch Trubisky, the second overall pick” for only two plays Sunday against the Ravens.
Maybe it’s time for more, no?
As unimpressive as Trubisky’s numbers were against the Ravens — limited by the Bears’ insistence on sticking to their run-heavy game plan — the Bears don’t win 27-24 in overtime at M&T Stadium without Trubisky’s playmaking abilities.
“He’s a different kind of guy,” receiver Kendall Wright said. “He’s a baller.”
He might be a baller, but he had to hand the ball off 50 times to running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen.
Coach John Fox’s game plan — not offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains’ — became more apparent with every handoff.
Fox wanted Trubisky to manage his first start on the road. Trubisky, though, did one better — he managed to win it.
When the Bears finally needed Trubisky to be special, he was. On the move, he delivered an 18-yard completion to receiver Kendall Wright over the middle on a third-and-11 play from the Ravens’ 41-yard line in overtime.
Being on the road in overtime — Trubisky called it a “hostile environment” — didn’t overwhelm him. It was a big-time throw from Trubisky after his role was purposely kept small in regulation.
“At the end of the game, we were all dead tired,” guard Kyle Long said. “Mitch is the one picking us up, making sure we get the gusto to finish.”
Howard put a victory within reach with his 53-yard run to the Ravens’ 40 in overtime. But the Bears still needed a big play from Trubisky after their next two plays amounted to a one-yard loss.
As kicker Connor Barth said afterward, reaching the 37-yard line was ideal for him.
Trubisky surpassed that with his 18-yard completion to Wright.
The entire play was special. Trubisky stepped up in the pocket to elude outside pressure from both sides, slid to his right and fired a pass with Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley in his face. Wright made a leaping catch over cornerback Lardarius Webb.
“It’s not exactly how we drew it up,” said Trubisky, who completed 8 of 16 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown for a 94.0 passer rating. “It turned into a little broken play. I just saw Kendall. I gave him a chance, and he made a heck of a catch.”
After three more runs by Howard, including one for a two-yard loss, Barth made a 40-yard field goal to cap the wild victory.
Before overtime, Trubisky’s best play was his 27-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dion Sims in the third quarter, which gave the Bears’ a 17-3 lead.
A blown coverage by the Ravens left Sims wide open, but pressure forced Trubisky to roll to his right. He said that Sims was his third read.
“I didn’t actually get to see him catch it,” Trubisky said. “I got hit and taken to the ground. So I’m looking forward to seeing it on film. It’s just finding open guys and making plays when it counts, just getting the ball to your playmakers.”
In time, Trubisky will be the Bears’ best playmaker. And, in time, the Bears will allow him to be that.
When Howard and Cohen run the ball 44 times for only 136 yards in regulation, that’s not an offensive coordinator sticking with what’s working. That’s an offensive coordinator sticking to what his coach wants to do in a tight game.
“Whatever it takes to win,” Fox said. “This week, we needed to run — and we did.”
The entire plan nearly backfired as the Bears’ special teams blew a special effort by the defense by allowing two touchdown returns in the second half.
“We just wanted to stick with what was working and just pound the rock like we do,” Trubisky said. “You do what’s asked of you. There wasn’t many checks from run to pass. It was checks from run to run.
“It was just continue to get us in the right situation, get down there, manage the game and just try to keep everyone composed. If we stick together, we can win more ball games.”
The win wasn’t without its growing pains for Trubisky, who was sacked four times. In the fourth quarter, Webb reached Trubisky with a blitz and forced a fumble.
“I got off my first read a little too quick,” Trubisky said. “I think I could have gotten the ball out.”
But there were signs of growth, too.
The best might have been Trubisky’s throwaway on a sprint-out play on third down from the Ravens’ 5. He didn’t force a pass to anyone. He played within himself at a key moment after the frustrations of missing open receivers in the first quarter.
More important, Trubisky said he learned from his fourth-quarter interception from last week against the Vikings.
“When you get in the point zone,” Trubisky said, “you take an incompletion over a risky throw.”
And the Bears will take the wins however they come.
Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns.