First-and-10: Why is red-hot Patrick Mahomes so far ahead of Mitchell Trubisky?
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Bears coach Matt Nagy is preaching patience with quarterback Mitch Trubisky. But that’s a tough sell right now, because Chiefs second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes is running laps at Olympic sprinter speed while Trubisky still is taking baby steps while being spoon-fed Nagy’s Kansas City-bred offense.
Last year it was the Texans’ Deshaun Watson —the 12th pick in the 2017 draft — making Bears general manager Ryan Pace’s decision to trade four draft picks to move up one spot and take Trubisky look dubious. Now it’s Mahomes, taken 10th overall in the 2017 draft, who is casting doubt on Pace’s decision. With an NFL-record 10 touchdown passes (without an interception) in the first two weeks of the season, Mahomes’ 143.3 passer rating through two games is the sixth-best since the 1970 merger.
Mahomes has started three NFL games. Trubisky has started 14 — yet his 80.0 rating (two touchdowns, two interceptions) pales in comparison.
What’s up with that? Nagy, who tutored Mahomes as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator last season and is overseeing Trubisky’s development this season, pointed to Mahomes’ experience in the offense being a key difference.
“What’s fair to compare is you have one in Patrick, who has had a full year in this offense to understand,” Nagy said. “Regardless of playing in it, he’s had more than a year to sit behind it and learn and understand and watch tape with those quarterbacks last year . . . whereas Mitchell hasn’t had that. He’s being forced into this thing right away and that’s where the growing pains are going to occur.”
Mahomes also has weapons in tight end Travis Kelce, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and running back Kareem Hunt who also have played in the Chiefs’ offense for at least a year. Most of Trubisky’s top receivers — Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Trey Burton — also are in their first year in Nagy’s Bears offense.
“I just want to make it clear to [Trubisky] and to everybody, if you’re realistic about it, it does take a little bit of time,” Nagy said. “In the meantime, we have a defense that can help us out during this process, so the sooner we get it and it starts clicking, the better. But that’s the difference between the two — and it’s obviously neat to see Patrick doing so well.”
The question now is how long will it take Trubisky to catch up? If he’s not closer by midseason and beyond, the comparison won’t be so easily dismissed.
2—The Bears’ hopes of finishing 8-8 or better likely depend on their ability to win when Trubisky is mediocre. Their defense obviously makes that possible. Jay Cutler was 0-7 with the Bears when he threw two touchdowns and two interceptions in a game. Trubisky already is 1-0, with a performance that is almost the definition of mediocre — 25-for-34 for 200 yards, 5.9 yards per attempt, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
One difference — besides Cutler’s propensity to make a mistake at the wrong time — was that the Bears’ defense allowed 27 points a game in Cutler’s seven losses with two touchdowns and two picks. Trubisky survived because the Bears defense not only allowed 17 points, but scored seven for a net of 10 points allowed.
3—Speaking of net points allowed, that overlooked statistic bears watching with a defense that appears to have Lovie-era bite. The Bears have allowed 41 points (20.5 per game, 11th in the NFL) through two games, but have scored 14 for a net of 27 points (13.5 per game).
That goes for yardage as well. The Bears have allowed 646 yards through two games (323 per game, eighth in the NFL), but have gained 76 yards in field position with interception returns for a net average of 285 yards per game.
4—Ever notice that when the Bears have a good defense, their offense is bad; and whenever they have a good offense, they’re defense is bad? It’s happening again. The Bears are eighth in defense, but 29th in offense after two weeks and neither side looks like an aberration.
Since the end of the Ditka era, the Bears have been in the top 10 in total offense or defense nine times — and they’ve been in the bottom four in the league on the other side of the ball seven of those years. In fact, only once have they been in the top 10 one side and even in the top half of the league on the other side — in 2006, when the defense was fifth and the offense was 15th.
5—Cornerback Prince Amukamara is on a pace for eight interceptions after his 49-yard pick-six against the Seahawks. Amukamara’s goal of 10 interceptions was scoffed at in training camp, because he had only seven career picks coming into this season. But things can happen in a good defense. Tim Jennings had seven career interceptions in 49 starts before he had nine for the Bears in 2012.
6—At 1-1, the Bears are out of last place in the NFC North for the first time since Week 14 of the 2015 season, when they were in third place at 5-8, a game ahead of the 4-9 Lions. Only 11 players on the current roster were on the team at that time, including five starters: guard Kyle Long, offensive tackle Charles Leno, nose tackle Eddie Goldman, safety Adrian Amos and cornerback Kyle Fuller.
7—The Bears already have scored more touchdowns on their opening possession — two — than all of last season, when they scored one touchdown in 16 games. In fact, the Bears scored a touchdown just five times in 48 games in John Fox’s three seasons.
Still, the disparity between the Bears’ scripted opening drive and the rest of the game is significant. In two games, they are averaging 9.1 yards per play on their opening drive and 3.5 yards per play after that.
8—Timing is Everything Dept.: Playing a road game on a short week can be problematic, but the Bears get the upstreaming Cardinals on Sunday in Glendale, Arizona.
The Cardinals have lost 24-6 to the Redskins and 34-0 to the Rams. They have yet to reach the opponent’s territory when the game is within three touchdowns. In fact, they had just one play in Rams territory Sunday — the final snap of the game — and nearly became the first team to not cross midfield for a complete game since the Bears’ debacle with Cade McNown against the 49ers in 2000.
9—Josh McCown Ex-Bears Player of the Week: In a week when NFL kickers missed eight field-goal attempts inside of 50 yards (36-of-44, 81.8 percent), Robbie Gould was 3-for-3 — hitting from 45, 42 and 36 yards — in the 49ers’ 30-27 victory over the Lions on Sunday.
Gould is 6-for-6 for the season and 57-for-59 (96.6 percent) since the Bears cut him before the start of the 2016 season. His career percentage of 87.1 percent is fifth on the NFL’s all-time list.
10— Bear-ometer: 8-8 — at Cardinals (W); vs. Buccaneers (L); 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).