Before the play clock hit the 15-second mark and the voice in Mitch Trubisky’s helmet was turned off, Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains briefed his rookie quarterback:
We’re not in field-goal range. Be aggressive here. You need to make a play.
“Instead of, ‘Be careful, throw it away, we already [are in range for] a field goal,’ ” Trubisky said.
It was third-and-11 from the Ravens’ 41-yard line with about 4½ minutes to play in a tie game in overtime Sunday. After throwing only 15 passes, Trubisky was ready. He took the snap, backpedaled into his drop and stepped up to split two pass rushers, keeping both hands on the ball.
He took one step up and two to his right, landing on his right foot. With linebacker C.J. Mosley leaping toward him, he threw off the wrong foot, high and over the middle, for an 18-yard completion.
“To be able to throw that ball with both hands in the air and changing your arm angle,” Loggains said, “that’s why you draft a kid second. You draft a guy ’cause it’s third-and-11, and if you don’t get a first down, you’re punting, and you don’t know what’s going to happen with the game.”
For the previous eight years, Bears fans were conditioned to believe a strong arm and discretionary mind were mutually exclusive. Jay Cutler might have had the most zip in NFL history — apologies to Jeff George — but he had 109 interceptions in 102 starts for the Bears. His bad habits seemed ingrained.
Trubisky has only two touchdowns and one interception in a small sample size, but the win over the Ravens was reason to believe he may possess the best of both worlds: a top-tier arm and the wisdom to know when to use it.
“ ‘Pretty Boy Assassin’ — that’s what we call him,” outside linebacker Pernell McPhee said. “Hopefully he can start assassinating people pretty soon.”
Count that 18-yard throw in overtime as his first kill. Four plays later, Connor Barth kicked the game-winner.
“I was just stepping up trying to make a play,” Trubisky said, “and those kind of things just come natural.”
He works on awkward throws during practice, but he didn’t realize his sidearm, wrong-foot pass qualified until the game ended.
“It seemed like it was normal when I was out there on the field, but I went and watched it,” he said. “And that’s not exactly how you want to drop back and throw the ball.”
The Bears spent all week praising Trubisky for his discretion (he threw the ball away six times in 16 passes) and ability to lead the team in his first road start. They praised his intelligence against the Ravens, who played cover-2 defense 40 times after doing it just once in the first five weeks. They admired how he handled the plan to go no-huddle on third downs to keep the Ravens’ pass-rush unit off the field.
And they said his strip-sack-fumble wasn’t his fault; the O-line screwed up the slide protection.
“I need to do a better job of blocking,” said guard Kyle Long, who tried to block one of the two pass rushers Trubisky stepped up past in overtime. “He did a hell of a job getting the ball out and finding some extra velocity on the ball to get it to Kendall.”
The most exciting part of the throw wasn’t the crossing route itself or that it led to a win, but rather what it could mean for the future.
“Very excited,” running back Jordan Howard said. “I’m sure it did a lot for his confidence.”
Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.