Cowboys, rest of schedule confront Mitch Trubisky with top defenses, a career shortcoming so far

Cowboys, rest of schedule confront Mitch Trubisky with top defenses, a career shortcoming so far

The quarterback and head coach get more credit or blame than they usually deserve for success or failure on NFL football fields. Such has been the case for the 2018 Bears, when offense-based Matt Nagy was NFL Coach of the Year because of an elite defense, and 2019 Bears, when quarterback Mitch Trubisky has been battered on and off the field for failings not entirely his own (see: ends, tight; receivers, wide; line, offensive).

Trubisky’s play over the past four games has been cited as evidence of improvement. Those included passer ratings of 131.0 and 118.1, both against the Detroit Lions, ranked 26th in opponent passer rating (99.7), 29th in yards per game 398) and (25th in points allowed per game).

But as the season moves into its decisive fourth quarter, a four-game stretch that includes three division leaders (Dallas, Kansas City, Green Bay) plus a first-runner-up with eight wins (Minnesota), while every phase and position group of the roster is tasked with ratcheting up their performances, the heaviest weight falls on Trubisky simply by virtue of his position.

The problem for the Bears is that throughout his 37-game career to date, Trubisky has failed to raise his game against better opponents. If that happens over the next four games, beginning with the Dallas Cowboys Thursday night, the Bears will be faced with a disturbing pattern in what they’ve hoped will develop into a franchise quarterback.

Meaning: Trubisky does not raise his game against the best. And with their season hanging by a thread, the Bears face Dallas, ranked top 10 against scoring, total yards and passing-yards.

Bad vs. Top-10'ers

Over his 37-game career, Trubisky has faced 10 top-10 defenses, using Football Outsiders DVOA ratings over the past three years. The Bears’ defense was pulled out, since Trubisky doesn’t play against the Bears; plus, when he did in training camp, things did not go well anyway.

In those 10 against the other top-10’s, Trubisky has managed just two passer ratings higher than 90.0, a decidedly middling standard; Carson Wentz ranks 18th with a 90.0 rating this season.

Unfortunately, given Trubisky’s present circumstances, there is an asterisk on those two games vs. top 10 Ds – No. 3 Baltimore (94.7) and No. 7 Carolina (101.8). Both came under John Fox and Dowell Loggains in 2017, in games when he was limited to seven and 16 pass attempts, respectively.

Trubisky’s next-highest rating vs. a top-10 defense came this year against New Orleans (86.6), a result meaninglessly inflated by a fourth quarter surge after the Bears had fallen behind 36-10.

Against other top defenses, bad: In 2019, the Rams (65.1); in 2018, the Vikings (61.9 in game I, 85.9 in game II).

Against top-10 pass defenses based on opposing quarterbacks’ ratings allowed, Green Bay ranks 10th with an 87.6 average. Trubisky opened the season with a 62.1 in the opening-night loss to the Packers.

Against the Chargers, who rank top 10 in based on fewest yards and points per game, Trubisky stumbled to a 75.1 that was overshadowed by Eddy Pineiro kicking problems.

Against No. 7 New England last season, Trubisky’s 69.8 rating wasn’t enough to overcome 14 points allowed by abysmal special teams play.

Coach Matt Nagy continues to accentuate the positive, regardless of opponent: “There were several times [in the Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit] where after the interception, he comes back and he’s throwing completions. And then we were behind the chains a little bit, and he never let that rattle him. He made conviction throws.

“So overall, there’s always a couple plays here or there. But overall, [the Detroit game] is probably a great example of all year long of him coming back with that next-play mentality.”

That mentality projects to get some of its most difficult tests in the remaining weeks of 2019.

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Eric Ebron interacts with Akiem Hicks' NFC Championship tweet, causing free agency speculation

Eric Ebron interacts with Akiem Hicks' NFC Championship tweet, causing free agency speculation

Just as Bears fans were finally coming to terms with their disappointing 8-8 season, Akiem Hicks decided to pour some salt on the wound and take to Twitter, imagining what it would’ve been like if the Bears had made it to the NFC Championship game.

While we were all imagining how indeed “lit” it would’ve been to see the Bears play in the post-season at Soldier Field, Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron decided to quote tweet Hicks with a thinking face emoji. Curious behavior.

Ebron has played for the Colts since 2018, when he had a stellar first season in Indianapolis, scoring 14 touchdowns. In 2019, Ebron’s season ended after 11 games due to an ankle injury. He scored three touchdowns, reeling in 31 catches for 375 yards. Colts GM Chris Ballad has said that the organization is likely to move on from Ebron in 2020, meaning he would be available in free agency.

Tight end is one of the positions on the Bears long offseason do to list, and Ebron seems he could be a potential fit. Judging by their Twitter interactions, Akiem Hicks and Tarik Cohen seem to think so.

Hicks replied to Ebron telling him he could hear Bears fans calling his name. Cohen echoed this sentiment in his own tweet, albeit more cryptically.

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Ranking the most painful moments for Bears' fans during the 2020 Championship weekend

Ranking the most painful moments for Bears' fans during the 2020 Championship weekend

You may have noticed that none of the four teams that played this weekend were the Chicago Bears. They haven't played since the last week of December, but since this disastrous season won't end for another two weeks, there's been plenty of time for some especially painful parting shots. And weirdly enough, there were multiple moments through the two games on Sunday that reminded Bears' fans about the 8-8 season that absolutely no one is trying to remember. Shall we go through them? OK! 

4. Jimmy Garoppolo Beat The Packers To Go To The Super Bowl With 6 Completions 

Remember when the Bears were going to trade for Jimmy G? Back before they traded up to take Trubisky, rumors were swirling that the Patriots' backup was headed to Chicago. That is what it is -- everyone's connected to everyone at one point or another, and Bears have enough potential QB scenarios to give themselves a stroke over. The real kicker was beating the Packers, and Aaron Rodgers, while attempting eight pass attempts. Remember Nagy's I'm-Not-An-Idiot comment after running the ball 7 times against New Orleans. Imagine that, but it works, and it's in the NFC title game. The Bears couldn't beat the Packers on either occasion this season, and that included 98 pass attempts. That sound you hear is someone (you can choose, really) banging their head against the wall inside of Halas Hall. 

3. Raheem Mostert Rushing For 220 Yards and Four Touchdowns 

Truly an insane night for Mostert. He was briefly on the Bears during the 2016 season, which happened to be Jordan Howard's first and best. Mostert also was on three other teams (NYJ, SF, CLE) that year, and three OTHER teams (PHI, MIA, BAL) the year before, so it's not like the Bears are the only team sitting here with yolk on their face. Still, seeing an NFL journeyman get halfway to the Bears' total rushing touchdown number (8) in one game is the stuff that existential crises are made for. 

2. Robbie Gould's Kicking Well For A Super Bowl Team

Things were all well and good when Eddy Pineiro was hitting game-winners in Denver while Gould got off to one of the worst starts of his career. As the Bears' special teams unit watched from their rented South Beach group house, Gould went 3-3, including a franchise postseason record 54-yarder, in the Niners' 37-20 win. He started the season by being crowned champion of Chicago Football Madness, and now he gets a shot at ending it with another title, even if it's not quite as illustrious as the midwest's premier Bears-only online bracket challenge. 

1. Literally Everything Pat Mahomes Did All Day 

The decision to trade up for Trubisky was bad, but honestly, the endless stream of barely-distinguishable versions of the same snarky tweet may be worse. At some point Bears fans are going to have to come to terms with Pat Mahomes playing for the Chiefs, but it sure as hell won't be this year. In their defense, everything he does makes you physically stop whatever else you're doing and figure out what noise just came out of your mouth. Bears fans are robbing themselves of the best Mahomsian experience by insisting on slamming the Caps Lock button anytime the Chiefs play, but with each new height that Mahomes and the Chiefs reach, it becomes harder and harder to blame them.

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