Bears

What you need to know from Mitch Trubisky’s near-perfect Thursday night

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AP

What you need to know from Mitch Trubisky’s near-perfect Thursday night

1. Mitch Trubisky was magnificent, but…

So, who’s ready to read way too much into preseason stats? After Mike Glennon struggled (more on that in a bit) and a brief, inconspicuous interlude from Mark Sanchez, Mitch Trubisky took over at the second quarter two-minute warning with the ball at midfield…and promptly marched the Bears into the end zone, completing all four of his passes. In just one series, Trubisky threw for more yards (24) than Glennon did in four (20), and his two-yard touchdown to Victor Cruz sent the Bears into halftime with some positivity.

What we saw from Trubisky during that two-minute stretch wasn’t any different than what we’ve seen during practice in Bourbonnais — the athleticism, arm strength and accuracy all showed up at Soldier Field Thursday night. And it continued into the second half.

The Bears scored their first possession of the second half — Trubisky nearly threw a touchdown to Rueben Randle, who was tackled just shy of the goal line — and after his first two drives, he was 9/9 for 74 yards with a quarterback rating of 138 (his QB rating actually went down after completing his 10th of 10 passes, a nine-yard gain).

Trubisky’s evening was breathtaking, but he’s had an up-and-down training camp in which he hasn’t been able to string good days together. Perhaps Thursday night can propel him to starting rolling good practices, which — if he’s able to do that — could mean he’ll enter the season as the Bears’ backup, instead of staying where he is now at No. 3 on the depth chart.

Still, here’s what Trubisky, earlier this week, said he hoped to accomplish from his first preseason game.

“Just play great situational football, control the game,” Trubisky said. “Each time I’m in there with my teammates just show command at the line of scrimmage, drive the ball down the field, be efficient, pick up first downs and hopefully finish in the end zone a couple times. It’s all about taking care of the football, going out there having fun and doing my job.”

Mission accomplished.

2. Mike Glennon didn’t help his narrative.

Throwing a pick-six on his first series as the Bears’ QB1 and ending his day with a quarterback rating of 0.0 was a pretty rough first impression for Mike Glennon. The Bears’ offense didn’t have any spark while he was quarterbacking it, outside of a handful of electric carries from Tarik Cohen. And Glennon couldn’t connect with Cam Meredith on a deep ball when it looked like the Berwyn native had separated a bit down the sideline.

Thursday was a stark reminder that, while Glennon remains in line to be the Bears’ starting quarterback Sept. 10, he still has plenty of developing to do. Glennon’s had both good and bad days since the Bears reported to training camp in late July, but this one was about as awful as possible and came on a much grander stage. How he — and his teammates — respond from it over the next few days of practice will be interesting to watch.

3. The defense showed some positive signs.

Maybe a little lost in the Glennon disappointment/Trubisky hype was that Vic Fangio’s defense had a solid day. Leonard Floyd sacked Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian on the Bears’ first defensive snap of the game, and we saw big plays from Bryce Callahan and Jonathan Bullard as well. It wasn’t until Isaiah McKenzie embarrassed the Bears’ third/fourth-string secondary midway through the fourth quarter that Denver’s offense scored a touchdown.

While reading into one preseason game is, of course, dangerous and foolish, a thought here: Some key players on that side of the ball have noted that they’re playing faster with a better knowledge of Fangio’s system. Defensive end Akiem Hicks is one of those second-year guys (as are Floyd and Bullard) in the defense, who explained the year-to-year improvement earlier this week.

 

“Through the things that we installed last year and being able to see those things again, you get just a little bit faster at them,” Hicks said. “You don’t have to look for as many keys. You say to yourself — OK, I got this. Now I see that, let’s go, rather than scanning the whole field. I think that happens when you’re in a scheme for more than a year, going into our second year.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Cornette (The U/ESPN 1000) join Kap on the panel. Justin Turner hits a walk-off 3-run HR off of John Lackey to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the NLCS. So why was Lackey even in the game? How much blame should Joe Maddon get for the loss?

The Bears run the ball over and over and over again to beat the Ravens in overtime, but should they have let Mitch Trubisky throw the ball more?

Two reasons why the Bears could finally start stacking wins

Two reasons why the Bears could finally start stacking wins

The Bears winning a road game against a perennial playoff contender, one with a winning record coming in – that’s great.

Winning in Baltimore with a rookie quarterback in only his second NFL appearance – that’s terrific.

Generating more takeaways than giveaways and netting points from them – that’s just outstanding.

And now what?

Because too often under John Fox the Bears have posted a victory and failed to have it mean much of anything because of what followed a week later – a largely self-inflicted loss. The Bears have not posted consecutive wins since midway through the 2015 season, and even then proceeded to unravel on by squandering opportunities sitting squarely within their grasp.

Why should this time be any different? Because if it’s not, and the Bears again fail to stack even one win on top of another, then a dominating performance against the Baltimore Ravens (leaving out special teams, which surrendered in two plays more points than the defense did in 14 entire Baltimore possessions) becomes another meaningless afternoon in the overall for a team determined to reinvent itself.

Coaches typically divide seasons mentally into quarters, and clearly in Fox’s mind, Sunday was part of a different quarter from the 1-3 first quarter. “Really it takes almost four games, it’s almost like the preseason anymore, where you kind of get it figured out,” Fox said. “So just developing that confidence, usually good things have to happen to gain that confidence. And we did some good things.”

But the Bears have done “some good things” in games past and it becomes much ado about nothing, sound and fury signifying less than nothing. So again: Why should this time be any different?

Two reasons, actually. Neither absolute, but neither very complicated, either.

Reason No. 1: Trubisky

Without making too much out of one individual player, the chief reason arguably lies in the person of Mitchell Trubisky, a quarterback who already has palpably changed the psyche of a previously languishing team.

“The team didn’t make nearly as many mental errors this week because of his patience,” said wide receiver Kendall Wright, who supported Trubisky with a leaping catch of 18 yards to set up the game-winning field goal.

Unlike Mike Glennon, Matt Barkley, Brian Hoyer and 2016 Jay Cutler, each of whom won one game and one game only over the past 22, Trubisky delivered the ball security of Hoyer with added impact that none of his predecessors did manage, or arguably even could have managed.

Put simply, the Bears do in fact have a quarterback who even at this point appears able not only to make plays as drawn up, but also to create something out of nothing or at least avert catastrophe.

“Mitch made some great plays,” Fox said. “I mean, if you look at the snap over his head in the end zone, there’s probably only five or six or seven quarterbacks in this league that could get out of that. I go back to the touchdown pass to Dion [Sims, tight end]. He flushed [from the pocket], we adjusted and he dropped a dime in the end zone for a touchdown. And the play obviously at the end where more than likely if we don’t get that, we’re probably punting, the play he made to Kendall. I think Mitch played outstanding… .

“Those are really good decisions. It beats six interceptions, for sure. There’s a 3rd-and-3 play in the red area, low red, sprint out to our left. It wasn’t all perfect but he did the next best thing and that’s throw it away. So those are really, really good decisions that I think sometimes the casual or un-casual fan does not see.”

The noteworthy element in Trubisky’s game was the impact achieved by a Bears quarterback who completed all of eight passes. The reality is that Trubisky doesn’t need to attempt more than 20 passes a game (including the four sacks his protection allowed, which absolutely needs to be fixed).

For perspective purposes: Ben Roethlisberger in his first two seasons averaged 17.4 and 15.9 passes per game. The Pittsburgh Steelers reached the AFC Championship game and won the Super Bowl in those two seasons, running an offense that was just short of 60 percent runs.

Reason No. 2: Mistake reduction

A mistaken notion as to how improvement happens is the belief that it comes from just getting better and better, skill sets rising to the loftiest heights.

Not necessarily. Anyone who has had the good fortune of working their golf handicap down knows that the stroke reductions come less from suddenly adding 30 yards to drives or developing a draw on a 200-yard three-iron, than from eliminating the fluffed pitch shots, the approach shots pushed into traps, the drives into the woods. Cut down the mistakes and good things happen.

So it is with the Bears, who effectively lost the Minnesota game by allowing a 58-yard TD run by Jerick McKinnon, and sealed it with a poor Trubisky pass on a possession with a chance to tie or win. They lost the Atlanta game simply by dropping passes. They aren’t as good as the Green Bay Packers – at least not until Trubisky reaches full extension and proves to be a challenge to Aaron Rodgers.

But only in the Atlanta near-miss did they self-destruct with fewer penalties (four) than they did at Baltimore (five). Sunday was the first time since Atlanta that they threw zero interceptions. And the defense limited the Ravens to three third-down conversions out of 18, one indicator of fewer breakdowns on the most important down.

“As long as we eliminate those mistakes that we’ve been making,” Fox said, “we’re gonna be right there going into the end of the game.”

The Bears have had positive spikes in the past and then collapsed; even after winning three of four in late 2015, the inept home losses to San Francisco and Washington were arguably a tipping point in the Fox era.

The point next Sunday against Carolina is to determine if the Bears are through with their one-and-done ways.