LANDOVER, Md. — This wasn’t Tampa Bay 2018 all over again. But Mitch Trubisky and the Bears’ offense played, easily, their best collective game of 2019 in a 31-15 win over Washington Monday night at FedEx Field.
Did it come against a bad opponent? Yes. Can things this group did still be viewed as encouraging? Also yes.
Trubisky completed 25 of 31 passes for 231 yards with three touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 116.5. He spread the ball around successfully, targeting six different players at least three times. The Bears’ offense took advantage of its defense’s five takeaways, generating 17 points of its own off those turnovers (with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s pick six tacking on another seven).
This was a good day for the Bears’ offense. Good, not great. And it’ll have to be better next week when a Minnesota Vikings defense that’s allowed 15.7 points per game (fifth) and 5.1 yards per play (eighth) rolls in Chicago.
“I don’t know if I’d call it a breakthrough yet,” Trubisky said. “We gotta keep getting better and keep growing.”
Still, Trubisky looked comfortable in the pocket even without right tackle Bobby Massie, who was a late scratch due to vertigo. The Bears’ offensive rhythm was good, with Nagy calling the right plays and his players executing them well. Going up-tempo at times helped, too. It's tough to discount those things no matter what sub-optimal group of players was on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
“I felt better today,” Nagy said. “It still doesn’t feel — it’s still not where it needs to be. But I definitely felt better. We were able to get in a rhythm. And we were getting first downs, and any time you get first downs you can get to the next call on the play sheet. … I thought rhythm-wise, it was our best in the three games.”
Trubisky still had one of those interceptions that fuel doubts about his ability, though. He locked on to Allen Robinson in press-man coverage near the goal line and tried a back-shoulder throw on a fade, which cornerback Josh Norman easily intercepted. Robinson beat Norman over the top on the play, but Trubisky said he had it pre-determined he’d try a back-shoulder throw.
“Would like to have that one back,” he said.
But Trubisky also made the kinds of throws that fuel hope about his ability, too, like when he rifled a perfect 36-yard strike to Taylor Gabriel for the diminutive receiver’s third touchdown of the first half (Gabriel had two touchdowns in all of 2018). That’s the kind of special throw the Bears hope to see now and again all while Trubisky maintains a good rhythm within drives.
“He did his thing,” wide receiver Allen Robinson said. “He went out there, he was in command the whole time. I feel like from an offensive standpoint we were in control the whole game.”
There was a worrying lull in the third quarter that allowed Washington to creep uncomfortably close to a one-possession game, this after the Bears stormed to a 28-0 lead in the first half. But the Bears’ four-minute offense prevailed in the fourth quarter, with David Montgomery taking over and leading a drive that ended with a field goal just inside the two-minute warning. That late-game offensive success (and clock control) was missing in each of the last two weeks.
The Bears had preached process over the last two weeks while the results — one touchdown in eight quarters — weren’t there. The results finally began to match the process on Monday. They’ll need to continue progressing going forward against better opposition, at least this coming weekend.
But if the Bears couldn’t get their offense going against this Washington defense, it would’ve been fair to question if this group could get going at all in 2019. So for Monday night, the Bears proved something important to themselves about realizing results while trusting themselves and the offense in which they play.
“We just executed,” Robinson said. “That’s what we’ve been saying for weeks now. It’s not rocket science, it’s not anything special. We just gotta execute. We were able to do that today.”
Added Montgomery: “It just shows that we have the potential and ability to be who we want to be.”