First-and-10: Mitch Trubisky takes a giant leap — and Pat Mahomes ups the ante
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The great young quarterback race is on.
No sooner had Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky matched Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ six-touchdown game in Week 2 than Mahomes raised the bar with a eye-opening performance against the Broncos on ‘‘Monday Night Football,’’ willing his team to victory with one clutch play after another during two fourth-quarter touchdown drives in a 27-23 victory at Mile High Stadium.
Fourth quarter. On the road. Prime time. National television. With Von Miller chasing him. The Mahomes scenario had all the ingredients of a memorable performance. While Trubisky’s six touchdowns against the Bucs took us back to the days of Sid Luckman and Johnny Lujack, Mahomes’ performance was reminiscent of Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Hall of Fame quarterbacks of a more modern era.
Trubisky finally put his hat in the ring with a breakout performance against the Buccaneers — six touchdowns, 354 yards, a nearly perfect 154.6 passer rating and rushes of 26 and 23 yards, the two longest rushes by a quarterback in Week 4. His 354 yards on 26 passes are the most yards in franchise history with fewer than 30 passes. His passer rating is the third-best in franchise history, behind Vince Evans (158.3 against the Packers in 1980) and Ed Brown (157.4 against the Lions in 1955).
But Mahomes took it to another level against the Broncos with a scintillating fourth quarter in which he repeatedly dodged a vicious pass rush to make big plays, even throwing a pass left-handed to convert a third-and-five as Miller was about to sack him.
As Bears coach Matt Nagy noted, Mahomes’ experience in that offense gives him a big advantage. But it’s Mahomes’ knack for playing quarterback — his ability to improvise, create opportunities and make plays out of havoc — that have made him such an instant hit.
Trubisky, on the other hand, is an assembly-required quarterback, a self-described ‘‘rep person’’ who clearly is better in preparation than improvisation. His strength right now is scripted plays, the ones he has worked on the most and knows the best.
That’s not a knock on him. Trubisky definitely learns well. And the game Sunday showed just how high his ceiling is. That gives him a shot to catch or surpass Mahomes and Deshaun Watson — and Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, for that matter. But, like anything else where assembly is required, it takes time to put it all together.
2. Trubisky is a candidate to win his first Offensive Player of the Week award. He’s the only quarterback of the seven who were drafted among the top 12 from 2015 to 2017 who has yet to win that award. But despite Trubisky’s six touchdown passes and his nearly perfect passer rating, Goff is the favorite to win Week 4 honors with his 465 yards, five touchdown passes and perfect 158.3 rating against the Vikings’ 10th-ranked defense.
In fact, considering the Buccaneers’ defense came in ranked 31st in the league, Trubisky’s breakout game might have been the third-most impressive performance of Week 4, behind Goff and Mahomes. Tough league.
3. What a week for the five quarterbacks drafted among the top 12 in 2016 and 2017. Goff (158.3), Trubisky (154.6), Watson (102.8), Wentz (99.4) and Mahomes (89.5) averaged 369 yards and 9.4 yards per attempt and combined for 16 touchdown passes and only one interception for a composite 123.8 rating.
3a. It was a great week for NFL quarterbacks in general. The 30 starting quarterbacks threw 58 touchdown passes with 20 interceptions for an average rating of 98.5 — better than Hall of Famer Steve Young’s NFL-leading 97.2 in 1996, which isn’t all that long ago.
4. The Khalil Mack Effect: Through four weeks, the Bears’ defense is ranked among the top 10 in every major category: total yards (fourth), yards per play (fifth), rushing yards (second), rushing yards per attempt (third), net passing yards (10th), net passing yards per play (sixth), interceptions per pass play (second), sacks per pass play (first), first downs (second), third-down efficiency (sixth) and points allowed (tied for third). They are also second behind the Jaguars in net points allowed (12.8 per game), which accounts for their two defensive touchdowns.
It’s a small sample size, of course. But only two teams in the last 10 seasons have been among the top 10 in every defensive category even after four weeks: the Seahawks in 2016 and the Broncos in 2009.
4a. The Khalil Mack Effect II: The Bears have sacked seven quarterbacks in four games: Aaron Rodgers (twice), DeShone Kizer (twice), Russell Wilson (six times), Sam Bradford (three times), Josh Rosen (once), Ryan Fitzpatrick (twice) and Jameis Winston (twice). They have 18 sacks in four games, a pace of 72 for the season. The Steelers led the NFL with 56 sacks last season; the Bears were tied for seventh with 42.
4b. The Khalil Mack Effect III: With three interceptions against the Buccaneers, the Bears have eight interceptions this season. That equals their 16-game total for the 2017, 2016 and 2015 seasons.
5. There’s no excuse for defensive end Akiem Hicks losing his cool and getting ejected for pushing an official after he tangled with Buccaneers guard Ali Marpet with the Bears ahead 35-3 in the second quarter. Hicks might be suspended for the infraction, which would end his streak of 54 consecutive games played, including 36 consecutive starts in three seasons with the Bears.
The Bears’ defense should be able to handle Hicks’ potential absence against the Dolphins’ 30th-ranked offense Oct. 14. But Hicks surely doesn’t want to miss the next game against the Patriots. Not only might that be a measuring-stick game for the Bears, but Hicks left the Patriots to join the Bears in free agency after the 2015 season.
6. Bears receiver Taylor Gabriel (5-8, 165) and running back Tarik Cohen (5-6, 179) might be the smallest teammates with 100 or more receiving yards in the same game in NFL history. Gabriel had seven receptions for 104 yards and two touchdowns and Cohen seven catches for 121 yards and one touchdown against the Buccaneers. It was the first 100-yard receiving game for each player.
The last time teammates shorter than 6-0 had 100 or more receiving yards in the same game was in 2015, when the Saints’ Willie Snead (5-11, 205) and Brandin Cooks (5-10, 183) did it in a 39-17 loss to the Eagles.
7. The Bears scored all 48 points on offense against the Buccaneers. The last time they scored 48 points on offense in a game was Dec. 7, 1980, when they scored 55 — and Evans had a perfect 158.3 passer rating — in a 61-7 victory against the Packers at Soldier Field.
8. NFL Chicagoan of the Week Award: Former Wheaton-Warrenville South star Corey Davis had a breakout game with nine receptions for 161 yards and the winning touchdown — a 10-yard catch from Marcus Mariota with 10 seconds left in overtime — in the Titans’ 26-23 victory against the reigning Super Bowl champion Eagles.
9. Josh McCown Ex-Bears Player of the Week Award: Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery, in his first game since the Super Bowl after having offseason shoulder surgery, caught eight passes (on nine targets) for 105 yards and a 16-yard touchdown in the Eagles’ loss to the Titans.
10. Bear-ometer: 9-7 — at Dolphins (L); vs. Patriots (L); vs. Jets (W); at Bills (W); vs. Lions (W); vs. Vikings (L); at Lions (L); at Giants (W); vs. Rams (L); vs. Packers (W); at 49ers (W); at Vikings (L).