DETROIT — Matt Nagy was right. A lot of players played well in the Bears’ 24-20 win over the Detroit Lions on Thursday at Ford Field. But, as the second-year coach put it:
“Today was Mitch’s day.”
Trubisky threw with conviction, allowing his receivers to make plays. Anthony Miller and Allen Robinson combined for 17 catches and 226 yards, while Trubisky completed 29 of 38 passes for 338 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He comfortably went through his progressions to throw an excellent ball to rookie Jesper Horsted for one touchdown, and then find David Montgomery for the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter.
“I told him that’s what special players do right there,” Nagy said of the throw to Montgomery. “That was further in the progression. We were looking for a specific route and play, but he extended it and he made the decision — because right there, you basically have three points. Touchdown you win the game, but you have three so you don’t want to get in the situation where you lose that three points because you force a throw.”
It was Trubisky’s best game of 2019, and was the best he played since he torched the Lions in Week 10 of the 2018 season. While Nagy praised the “special” throws he made, Trubisky said he felt like he was just doing his job.
“It’s my job to get the ball to the playmakers, whatever the defense gives us I gotta put the ball in the right spot, especially when everyone else does their job,” Trubisky said. “O-line did a great job protecting, everybody was in the right spot, Jesper ran his route and you gotta keep getting better. You’re proud of that growth but bottom line I just gotta do my job.”
The Bears will look at Trubisky carving up the Lions on Thanksgiving and point to it this offseason, when they just might be defending a decision to pick up his fifth-year option. They may argue the 90-yard drive he engineered with two fantastic third down deep balls to Miller as reason why they don’t need to bring in someone like Cam Newton to take over as the team’s unquestioned starting quarterback.
It was an undoubtedly good day for Trubisky. It also came against the Lions, a team with a truly awful pass defense (275.5 yards/game, 30th) coached by Matt Patricia, who stubbornly stuck to playing mostly man coverage against a quarterback who’s struggled against zone concepts.
“When teams play man you need your players making plays,” Nagy said. “That’s really what happened today. We had a quarterback that stepped up and made throws and gave our guys chances.”
But will Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard — the Cowboys’ defensive brain trust — deploy more zone against the Bears’ offense next Thursday? It seems likely, and will create a challenge for Trubisky given the talent Dallas has on that side of the ball. Before the Cowboys’ brutal loss to the Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving, they were fifth in yards per pass allowed (6.1) and sixth in passing yards allowed per game (213.6).
The point being: It’ll be a lot easier to buy into Trubisky if he plays well against the Cowboys. The glass-half-empty view of Trubisky’s game against the Lions is that he proved he can be effective against a man-heavy defense lacking both quality talent and coaching. It’ll be more difficult to be cynical about Trubisky if he puts together a good, winning effort against the Cowboys.
2019 is not yet a completely lost season for Trubisky. He may be one game away from that feeling like the case, but as long as he continues to show progress — which he has over the last few weeks — the Bears will keep giving him opportunities to hang on to his starting job in 2020 and beyond.