Mitch Trubisky fought his way into the north end zone at Soldier Field and spiked the ball with the kind of arm strength he’d usually reserve for fitting a throw into a tight third down window. He then let loose a primal yell, knowing he and the Bears had complete control of a game against an NFC North opponent for the first time in his career.
Maybe there was a little extra meaning behind that emphatic celebration, too.
“The passion he had spiking the ball — I saw a whole lot of passion with him spiking the ball — I’m like, oh, that’s it right there,” running back Tarik Cohen said. “That’s how he responds to the critics, him getting in the end zone and showing that passion.”
A Sunday after two sharp criticisms of Trubisky ran rampant across the Bears’ corner of the internet — The Athletic’s Michael Lombardi saying he wouldn’t buy Trubisky if he were on a discount rack at Filene’s Basement, and ESPN’s Bill Barnwell writing that Trubisky wasn’t guaranteed to be on the Bears in 2020, the fourth year of his rookie deal — the 2017 No. 2 pick put together what coach Matt Nagy called his best game of the season. That wasn’t hyperbole, or damning with faint praise, either: Trubisky completed 23 of 30 passes for 355 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions, a passer rating of 148.6 and that rushing score.
“He’s right up there with any of the good ones in this league right now when he plays at a high level,” tight end Trey Burton said.
Or, as wide receiver Anthony Miller put it: “I think he played like a veteran quarterback.”
The Bears scored touchdowns on their first four drives of the afternoon, and set the tone on that first possession by going up-tempo with a no huddle attack against a depleted and struggling Lions defense. Trubisky had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 at halftime and didn’t have any of the badly-missed throws or poor decisions that cropped up at times during his first eight games of the season.
“Laser focused today,” Nagy said. “Not that he hasn't had it before, but you could just see it and you could feel it.”
The pessimistic point of view is that the Lions’ defense — led by a defensive guy in Matt Patricia — is awful. Football Outsiders’ DVOA ranked Detroit’s defense 29th entering Sunday, only three spots ahead of the dead-last Tampa Bay Buccaneers — the team against which Trubisky had his other best game of the season.
In those two games against the Lions and Buccaneers, Trubisky completed 75 percent of his passes for 709 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions. In his other seven games, Trubisky completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,595 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The combined average DVOA ranking of those seven opponents’ defenses is 11th. The Minnesota Vikings’ defense, which Trubisky will face next week on Sunday Night Football, ranks ninth.
But no matter how bad the defense in front of him, games like Trubisky had on Sunday are important. Drilling down into it, Trubisky’s timing was excellent with his receivers — specifically, Allen Robinson (six catches, 133 yards two touchdowns) and Anthony Miller (five catches, 122 yards, one touchdown), both of whom had their best games in a Bears uniform on Sunday. He clicked through his progressions and made smart decisions, buoyed by an excellent pass-blocking performance by the offensive line, too.
“It would probably be one of my best games,” Trubisky said. “Just felt really comfortable out there, thought the O-line played fantastic today and we got open on the outsides and it was just me doing my job, sitting back there and getting the ball to the playmakers. So I just felt really comfortable today. I put the ball where it needed to go and it's all a credit to my teammates and the work we put in in practice.”
The Bears believe Trubisky’s arrow is pointing up, and that he can have a game like this against a better defense when given the opportunity. Trubisky appreciated that his teammates had his back in the face of that outside criticism this week — Cohen sent a snappy tweet to Lombardi, for instance— but isn’t worried about what’s being said about him.
If he can parlay what he did against Detroit into a good showing against a team with a defensive-minded coach that actually has a good defense next weekend, that outside noise just might turn into outside praise. And his teammates won’t need to have his back publicly anymore.
“I don’t have to talk too much,” laughed Cohen. “I don’t gotta run my mouth when he does stuff like this.”