Mitch Trubisky watched the pass sail incomplete in the fourth quarter Sunday at Soldier Field and put his hands to his helmet in disbelief.
Bears fans’ reactions may have included a few expletives.
Taylor Gabriel streaked down the field past Chargers linebacker Thomas Davis and had 20 yards of open field between him and the end zone. The football, however, fell 3 yards in front of Gabriel, and the Bears missed the opportunity to take a two-touchdown lead.
The Bears’ 17-16 loss to the Chargers came down to kicker Eddy Pineiro’s missed 41-yard field-goal attempt, but plays like the misfire to Gabriel are what caused Bears coach Matt Nagy to say afterward he needs to reflect on where Trubisky is as they near the season’s midpoint.
After criticism about him last week swelled to its peak thus far in his three seasons, Trubisky put the Bears in position to score on the final drive. But his mistakes throughout the game did nothing to quell the outside questions about his future as the Bears quarterback.
“It’s a gut check,” Trubisky said. “It’s who’s going to rise up to the challenge this week, who’s going to continue to work hard and stick together when we’re going through adversity. And you’ve got to embrace it. ... It’s never too late. We can definitely turn it around.”
Trubisky’s two fourth-quarter turnovers made that hard to do Sunday.
On the next play after he “just missed” Gabriel, the Chargers pushed tackles Charles Leno and Bobby Massie back into Trubisky, and the ball came loose from Trubisky’s hand. Chargers defensive lineman Melvin Ingram recovered the fumble, and the Chargers took over at the Bears 26-yard line.
Three plays later, the Chargers scored the winning touchdown.
“I've got to have two hands on the ball when I'm leaving the pocket, when I'm moving in the pocket,” Trubisky said. “I put my hand down, and one second I had it and then I didn't.”
The fumble was the second of back-to-back turnovers by Trubisky, the other an interception by cornerback Casey Hayward, who jumped in front of tight end Trey Burton.
“The corner started to run with the post and then I let go of it,” Trubisky said. “That was just a good play by him by falling off on it, just a savvy vet making a play. It looked like the right look for what we were trying to do. I had Trey running up the side, and I had to move it a little bit in the pocket, and ... when I go back and watch it, I’m probably going to wish I just threw it away, checked it down or dirted it.”
Trubisky’s uneven play also contributed to the Bears’ troubles in the red zone in the first half. Of the Bears’ 11 plays inside the 10-yard line in the half, Trubisky completed 2 of 6 passes for 1 yard.
He nearly threw an interception in the end zone while trying to hit Burton from the 4-yard line on second down to open the second quarter. His third-down throw was well out of reach of Adam Shaheen. Later in the second quarter, his second-down throw from the 9 was behind wide receiver Allen Robinson and fell incomplete at the 1.
The Bears settled for Pineiro field goals on both drives.
It wasn’t all bad. As the Bears finally presented a balanced attack, Trubisky completed five passes of more than 20 yards — more than he did in the victory over the Redskins. He had a 22-yard completion to Gabriel and an 11-yard scramble — a part of his game that has been muted for most of the season — on the Bears’ final drive.
But if Pineiro had made the field goal as time expired, it could have been argued the Bears won in spite of Trubisky — not because of him.
Nagy will have plenty to reflect on.
“I kind of look sometimes for the intangibles, like where are we at with the vibe on the sideline, the leadership, and then when you get a chance to make plays, where is that part at, right?” Nagy said. “You have to be able to see (it) decision-making wise, and with the quarterback, are the eyes going to the same place? I’ve got to see it. I’ve got to watch it tonight and see. But there were some good plays in there and there’s some I think we want back.”
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