If each game for the foreseeable future is a “test” for Mitch Trubisky, Sunday’s trip to Miami has two parts to it.
The first one is more of a narrow, game-specific test. The Miami Dolphins lead the NFL with 10 interceptions, with cornerback Xavien Howard one of five players in the league with three interceptions. And while Trubisky’s career interception rate of 2.2 percent may seem low, it only ranks him 15th out of the 22 quarterbacks with at least 16 starts since the beginning of 2017.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins have picked off 5.5 percent of their opponents’ passes, the second-best rate only to the Bears (5.8 percent).
“Whether it’s opportunistic or skill or whether it’s a combination of both, they’re around the football,” coach Matt Nagy said. “And to have 10 interceptions in this league, three by Howard, they’re a good football team, a good defense and they make plays so you have to let your guys know that.”
Beyond the interceptions, this Miami defense might be the best one the Bears have faced to date. Football Outsiders DVOA ranks them fifth, ahead of fellow top-10 Bears opponents in Arizona (No. 8) and Seattle (No. 9). Tampa Bay, the team Trubisky torched at the end of September, ranks No. 32.
But the Dolphins are allowing 5.7 yards per play and a 44.4 third down completion percentage, middling-to-bad totals propped up by this team’s propensity to take the ball away. So Trubisky could effectively move the ball at Hard Rock Stadium, but he’ll need to make sure an opportunistic Dolphins defense doesn’t take the ball away when it counts.
“You definitely go back and watch those plays and see what happened and what strengths they have on defense and how they put an offense in that position to take the ball away,” Trubisky said. “For us, it’s just continue to focus on execution. Me, emphasizing take care of the football or ball carriers take care of the football and just continue to make good decisions and be smart with the football. But we know they’re a talented defense. We’ve got a lot of respect for them and how they’ve been able to take the ball away. So it’s just a big emphasis in practice throughout the week that we’ve got to have 100 percent ball security and that will continue to give us a chance in every single game.”
Responding to Success
This one is more bigger picture in how Trubisky approaches his first game after lighting up the Buccaneers for six touchdowns and 354 yards in Week 4. On one hand, Trubisky probably needed a game like that for his own confidence, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was the start of something special.
“When you have a good game, it naturally gives you confidence,” Nagy said. “What you have to make sure you prevent is making sure that you (don’t) get complacent with that and think it’s just going to happen every week because it’s not.”
It may seem a little odd to preach avoiding complacency for a quarterback with 16 uneven starts in his NFL career, but perhaps the off week has something to do with that. Nagy gave his players the entirety of last week off, providing an opportunity for a mental break after a long training camp and first quarter of the season.
Trubisky spent his off week with his family and saw his younger brother, Mason — a wide receiver for Mentor High School — win homecoming king.
“It’s kind of hard being a way for a week, especially after the great week I had,” Trubisky said. “You’re anxious to get back, to get back to work, get in the film room and see what we’ve got going into the game plan for this week. It was also a great opportunity to rest up and decompress a little bit and take care of the body. I feel like I balanced a little bit of both.”
Complacency doesn’t seem to be in Trubisky’s football DNA, though, based on how so many teammates praise their quarterback’s even-keel demeanor. While the Tampa Bay game was an unbridled success, it still was just one game in the lengthy development of Trubisky within Nagy’s offense.
And that process is something of which Trubisky has a firm grasp.
“It’s part of the process, being comfortable in this offense, knowing your job, knowing exactly how to do it and just going out there and reacting and playing football and not thinking about it,” Trubisky said. “So we're just figuring it out, and over the past month or so, wherever we're at, just starting to click a little bit and we need to keep that going forward.”
The Big News
Trubisky played the best game of his career with a sleeve on his right arm against Tampa Bay. The sleeve came to be because he suffered a cut on his arm a few weeks ago, and it reopened during the Bears’ Week 3 win against the Arizona Cardinals. So rather than having it “gushing everywhere,” as Trubisky said it was in Arizona, he went with the sleeve to cover up the wound.
“And then you play pretty well, some superstition, call it what you want,” Trubisky said. “I also got a lot of threats that I have to wear it, so ... Yeah, I'm going to keep it on.”
Trubisky is still a ways away from becoming the NFL’s Turk Wendell, but hey, whatever works.
“It feels comfortable, gives me a little more swag or whatever,” Trubisky said. “Just go out there and do your thing with the arm sleeve. So we'll see.”