Week 1 NFL Recap: Bears are stuck with Doctor Jekyll and Mitch Trubisky

Bad Mitch Trubisky and Good Mitch Trubisky each made an appearance on Sunday. The Bears are likely to live with that for a while.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

The NFL Recap team was ready to pull our Nick Foles jerseys from the closet and declare the Mitch Trubisky era in Chicago deader than smoked brisket after Trubisky completed just 8-of-20 passes at halftime, and the Detroit Lions mounted a 23-6 lead over the Chicago Bears late in the fourth quarter.

Then the Hulk got angry, Popeye ate his spinach, Trubisky looked into the failed quarterback prospect abyss and saw Josh Rosen staring back at him, or something happened that turned Trubisky briefly into Joe Montana. Three fourth-quarter touchdowns and a comeback 27-23 Bears victory later, we’re left wondering how long the Trubisky-go-round can keep spinning, and if the Bears can really learn to enjoy the ride.

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NFL Recap of the Bears and Lions Week 1 showdown

Trubisky was downright putrid for three quarters. He threw behind Ted Ginn on 4th-and-7. He sailed wobbly passes off his back foot into the end zone. The Bears ran the ball well, but their drives typically stalled the moment Trubisky dropped back to pass.

Then, late in the third quarter, someone administered the Super Soldier Serum. Trubisky got some help — leaping fingertip grabs by WRs Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller, an averted disaster when Lions defender Tracy Walker couldn’t quite intercept a rollout pass at the goal line — but he also scrambled for big yardage and delivered a few pinpoint passes, particularly the 27-yard strike to Miller which ultimately won the game.

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For their part, the Lions aided and abetted the Trubisky comeback with all the things the Lions are known for when leading in the fourth quarter: predictable coverage (man-1, with a little man-1 sprinkled in to mix things up), dubious play calls, a forced Matthew Stafford interception and the general lethargy of a team that soured on its head coach sometime in 2018.

Trubisky finished the afternoon 20-of-36 for 242 yards, three touchdowns, and a fine passer rating of 104.2. Stats don’t always lie, but sometimes they leave out a lot of detail in their summary.

What it means

Say what you will about Trubisky, but he has always been capable of looking great for one-quarter of a game. He has also always been capable of looking like a third-string rookie for the other three quarters.

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Sunday’s comeback was fun, and a win is a win, but the Bears needed to see signs of progress from the second overall pick in 2017. Instead, we saw more of what we saw in 2019, including misses on routine throws and play calls (four straight rushes while trailing 20-6 in the third quarter, for example) that suggest that Matt Nagy and his staff are hiding their quarterback instead of featuring him.

Sunday’s game was Trubisky’s 42nd career start. It’s too late for him to suddenly discover consistent pinpoint accuracy. The only remaining questions are whether the Bears can find ways to win with the Trubisky they’ve got, or if the three-quarters of ineptitude end with Foles under center

What’s next for Mitch Trubisky and the Bears

The Bears host the Giants next week. They could win that game with Chase Daniels’ accountant at quarterback. Then they visit the Falcons, who appear to be taking the first half of the season off as usual. Then come the Colts, where Philip Rivers is likely to call Trubisky’s overthrown 10-yard pass and raise him a fourth-quarter knuckleball into triple coverage.

You get the idea. The Bears could start the season 3-1 or 4-0 with Trubisky playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey each week. Which is fine — lots of teams win with defense, creativity, and a soft schedule — so long as general manager Ryan Pace doesn’t overreact to the success and offer Trubisky a DeShaun Watson contract.

(NARRATOR: There is a very good chance that Ryan Pace will overreact to any Trubisky success and offer him a DeShaun Watson contract.)