Seeing double: Expect a better Mitch Trubisky in Round 2 vs. Lions
The Lions should remember how close rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky was to wrecking their playoff hopes. They should recall his 19-yard scramble on fourth-and-13 late in the fourth quarter and then his 15-yard pass after it.
And then the Lions should remember to send former Bears kicker Connor Barth a Christmas card for missing a 46-yard field goal that would have tied the game in the waning seconds of regulation.
Before beating the Bengals in Cincinnati, Trubisky’s performance against the Lions four weeks ago at Soldier Field was his most encouraging outing.
Trubisky’s potential was on full display. The game opened with a great, diversified drive designed by offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, featured more zone-read runs for Trubisky and then ended with the rookie nearly becoming a hero.
“[I] just took care of the football, was aggressive within the timing of plays and found completions,” Trubisky said when asked what he liked about his first game against the Lions. “You just want to do those things, be good on third down and really just leave the offense on the field. We want to come away with more points and just stay ahead.”
A trip to Detroit is a great opportunity for Trubisky to prove how far he truly has come under Loggains and quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone. It’s the first time Trubisky will face a divisional rival for the second time.
Having tape of Trubisky, Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin can attack him differently. Austin now can remind his ends to be mindful of Trubisky on option keepers.
That said, Trubisky, who completed 18 of 30 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown and ran for 53 yards in the Lions’ 27-24 win in Week 11, is a different player now.
Opposing defensive coordinators purposely have added new wrinkles to their attacks in hopes of confusing Trubisky every week, whether it’s turning to rarely used coverages for a series or two or blitzing players that rarely do.
That continued against the Bengals, and Trubisky torched them in the cold at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bears offense set season highs for points (33), total yards (482) and first downs (29).
“[The Lions will] do something different. There will be something. They’ll have another pitch,” Loggains said. “We’ll just go off what they’ve shown, and be ready to make adjustments. Cincinnati did the same thing.”
The circumstances also are different.
Ford Field will be an inhospitable setting, but Trubisky is coming off his best two games as a starter, according to Loggains and coach John Fox. When Trubisky last faced the Lions in Week 11, the Bears were reeling after getting stunned by quarterback Brett Hundley and the Packers at Soldier Field.
Trubisky’s decision-making will be telling. He should be expected to have a better feel for the players he’s facing and what his own teammates do well against them.
Lions cornerback Darius Slay nearly intercepted Trubisky in the final minute when he broke on receiver Dontrelle Inman’s comeback route. Of course, that also was Inman’s second game with the Bears.
It’s all part of Trubisky’s growing experiences.
“The NFL is a game of matchups,” Loggains said. “It’s a player-driven league. As Mitchell sees more opponents and more people, he’s going to start to get a feel for each corner, for each safety, for each linebacker [and] as the zone-read stuff grows, how each defensive end plays it. As much as you can accumulate reps, it’s a huge thing for any young quarterback.”
There’s a revenge factor, too.
Forget Barth. Trubisky knows his fumbled snap that Lions cornerback D.J. Hayden recovered and scored on in the second quarter altered their first matchup.
“Hopefully, we can take all of the positives we did from the last game and carry them over to this game coming up,” Trubisky said.
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