Opinion: Mitchell Trubisky played better — and with Bears' defense, better might be good enough

USA Today Sports 2 months ago

LANDOVER, Md. — Mitchell Trubisky didn't call Monday night's game a "breakthrough." He didn't sit back and marvel at anything that he and the Chicago Bears' offense achieved in a 31-15 win over the Washington Redskins.

"We were a little bit better tonight," he said.

And the good news for the Bears is that "a little bit better" could be all they need — as long as Khalil Mack and the rest of the defense continue to play like they did Monday.

With Mack racking up two sacks and two forced fumbles in the first half, the Bears quickly built up a 28-0 lead on lowly Washington, scoring three times in a span of less than seven minutes in the second quarter. Trubisky found Taylor Gabriel in the end zone on all three scores.

It was the spark that coach Matt Nagy has been waiting for, the kind of scoring spurt that could serve as a sort of momentum for Trubisky as the season progresses.

"I think it was definitely a step forward for Mitch," wide receiver Anthony Miller said. "He made a lot of good throws, a lot of good reads. I think it boosted up his confidence a lot."

Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft, has been a target of criticism early this season after putting up paltry numbers in his first two games. The comparable success of reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes and Houston Texans starter Deshaun Watson — drafted 10th and 12th in 2017, respectively — certainly haven't helped.

But after completing just 58% of his passes in games against Green Bay and Denver, Trubisky completed all but six of his passes on Monday night (25 for 31) — good for 81%. He threw his first three touchdown passes of the season, the last of which came after he deftly swooped through the pocket to buy more time, and finished with 231 passing yards. (Though he did also throw a red-zone interception in the third quarter.)

While Trubisky didn't take many deep shots, he kept the Bears' offense on the move, especially in the first half. And coach Nagy was happy about that.

"When you get completions, it moves the sticks and you’re able to get first downs. And so I felt good about that," Nagy said. 

"I want to give credit to Mitch. ... He's mentally strong. He understands that throughout this process, there’s a lot of weight on his shoulders to do well. And I just like where he’s at."

Backup quarterback Chase Daniel told USA TODAY Sports that Trubisky felt more comfortable with "some of the little stuff" the Bears put into their gameplan this week. Trubisky pointed to the team's no-huddle strategy early in the game, which he said helped him establish a rhythm and sometimes prompted the Redskins' defense to show its hand.

"Sometimes when you’re stalling on offense and not having much success like we (were) the first two weeks, you just have to change it up a little bit and do something different to throw off the defense," Trubisky said. "I think we just kept it a little more simple for our guys instead of a lot of formations and personnel. It was just kind of cutting down and (playing) simple football."

Of course, it didn't hurt that Trubisky was facing the Redskins' defense, which gave up 30 points for a third consecutive week. Nor that the Bears' defense was outright dominant, manhandling Washington's offensive line and forcing five turnovers.

And that's the good news for Chicago, as it looks ahead to what is probably one of the most brutal schedules in the league: If the Bears' defense can continue to do what it has done to this point, they don't need Trubisky to be otherworldly. They don't need him to be Mahomes. Marginal, weekly improvement — steady, even if unspectacular — might prove to be all the Bears need out of Trubisky to make a run.

"We've just got to stick to the process, you know?" Trubisky said. "Keep believing in what we’re doing.”

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