The Bears defeat of the Minnesota Vikings produced two dominant story lines: that the Chicago defense is quite possibly even better than early indications, and that Mitchell Trubisky has a throwing-shoulder issue, severity unknown.
With the 2018 playoffs within reach, those two narratives are closely connected.
Because very good Bears teams have survived and even flourished in situations where an injury to the starting quarterback propelled a backup into his stead, with postseason results. Those results were sometimes less under the No. 2’s but the regular seasons did not automatically crumble. The overarching reason lay with the defenses at the other end of the locker room and that No. 2 being serviceable.
Irrespective of how Trubisky’s shoulder injury occurred – whether Vikings safety Harrison Smith is in fact a direct descendant of Charles Martin or Hugh Douglas – a scenario is in the offing that could require Chase Daniel to step in for Trubisky, if not as early as this Thursday in Detroit, then likely at some point of this or next season. The odds and elementary analytics of quarterback durability say so.
Which is where the matter of the defense and a capable No. 2 come in, as they sometimes have been able to on occasion in Bears history:
1985 -- Steve Fuller for Jim McMahon
McMahon was injured in a game-nine win and Fuller started the following week – against the Detroit Lions. The 24-3 win was followed by shutouts of Dallas and Atlanta, a three-game span in which the Bears’ defense scored more points (14) than the three opposing offenses (3).
1986 -- Mike Tomczak/Doug Flutie for McMahon
Green Bay defensive lineman Charles Martin was suspended for pile-driving McMahon into the turf, resulting in a season-ending shoulder injury for McMahon, who missed 10 total games in the season. The Bears fashioned the NFL’s best record (14-2) but did lose those two games behind backup Mike Tomczak, then lost in the first round of the playoffs under Doug Flutie.
2001 -- Jim Miller for Shane Matthews
Matthews started but was injured in game one at Baltimore. Miller replaced him and the Bears finished 13-3. But in the first round of the playoffs, Philadelphia defensive end Hugh Douglas body-slammed Miller after an interception, Miller left with a shoulder injury, the Bears lost and Miller was never the same.
2004 -- Hutchinson/Krenzel/Quinn for Rex Grossman
Lovie Smith installed Grossman as the starter. But Grossman injured knee ligaments and was replaced – unsuccessfully – by Chad Hutchinson, Craig Krenzel and Jonathan Quinn. The defense, building under Smith’s design, slumped with Brian Urlacher plagued by hamstring issues.
2005 -- Kyle Orton for Grossman
Grossman suffered a broken ankle in preseason. Rookie Kyle Orton went 10-5 as his replacement and with one of the great defenses in franchise history. But the Bears lost in round one of the playoffs with Grossman returned to starter.
2011-- Caleb Hanie for Jay Cutler
A 7-3 start dissolved when Cutler broke his right thumb and Hanie foundered despite a defense that still had Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and Brian Urlacher. Josh McCown won a by-then-meaningless game 16.
2012 -- Jason Campbell for Cutler
When Cutler suffered a concussion against Houston, Jason Campbell stepped in against the Texans and the following week against the 49ers and their Vic Fangio defense. The Bears lost both those games, missed the playoffs at 10-6 and Smith was fired.
2013 -- Josh McCown for Cutler
Cutler was in and out of the lineup with injuries. McCown resurrected his career with his relief work, going 3-2 as interim starter and becoming the first Bears quarterback to pass for 300 yards in three straight games. Cutler returned from injury and was ordered back in as the starter by GM Phil Emery. With a historically bad Bears defense throughout the season, Cutler started the final three games, the Bears lost the last two to finish 8-8 and lose the division to 8-7-1 Green Bay.