Bears

Mitch Trubisky laid a blueprint for the Bears' playoff success

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USA Today Sports Images

Mitch Trubisky laid a blueprint for the Bears' playoff success

Consider what Mitch Trubisky did in Sunday’s NFC North-clinching win over the Green Bay Packers a blueprint for what the Bears will need from their quarterback in the playoffs. 
 
Before his efficient-yet-not-spectacular game, Trubisky expressed frustration with his play last weekend against the Los Angeles Rams — which statistically was the worst game of his career. He felt like he was too excited to return to the field after a two-week absence, leading to him trying to do too much and throwing three interceptions with a brutal 33.3 passer rating. 
 
So Trubisky made it clear last week what he needed to do against the Green Bay Packers: Make good decisions, get the ball to his playmakers and not try to do too much. 
 
And that’s exactly what Trubisky did in the Bears’ NFC North-clinching 24-17 win over the Green Bay Packers Sunday at Soldier Field. Trubisky didn’t make any blatantly bad decisions with the ball and made plays when he needed to, completing 20 of 28 passes for 235 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, good for a 120.4 passer rating. 
 
Trubisky’s longest completion in the air traveled 23 yards beyond the line of scrimmage — and that was when he deftly avoided a blitz and was flushed out of the pocket, finding tight end Adam Shaheen with an outstanding throw toward the sideline. Otherwise, Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine kept a zone-oriented lid on the Bears’ deep passing attack, and Trubisky was happy to operate within those constraints. 
 
“That's exactly what I wanted to do,” Trubisky said. “We knew they weren't going to give us anything deep so it was going to be a grind it out game, take what they give us underneath and just find completions. So that's what I wanted to do all day, just stack completions. 
 
“I knew we would break some tackles and then you get some longer plays and then when we get to the red zone we need convert. But the main thing is we wanted to stay out of third down. We know they could throw a bunch of funky stuff at us on third down, and that was just my mindset this whole game, don't do anything crazy, don't try to make a splash, just completions after completions and it resulted in first downs and it helped create a rhythm within the offense that I think helped all day.”
 
The Bears might not need Trubisky to be their hero when their first playoff appearance in eight years rolls around in January. They have the league’s best defense, one that held the Rams to six points and didn’t allow Aaron Rodgers to throw for a touchdown on Sunday. Green Bay’s only touchdown drive came on a short field after a fake punt backfired. 
 
The Bears only had two three-and-outs — one of which came late in the fourth quarter after Eddie Jackson’s interception — and at the very least owned the field position battle, outside of that fake punt. Taking away that fake punt, the Packers started their other 10 drives on average on their own 21-yard line. 
 
“I'm super proud of him,” coach Matt Nagy said. “… When you have this defense and you're able to play with such a great defense and have that field position, protect the football and not throw interceptions, we're always going to have an opportunity.”
 
And on top of all that, Trubisky did make some critical plays. His knack for avoiding blitzes showed up in a big way, for one. And his strike to a wide-open Trey Burton for a go-ahead fourth quarter touchdown was the product of not only an excellent throw, but excellent anticipation from the second-year quarterback. 
 
“That was a conviction throw,” Nagy said. “When he does that, he's tough to stop.”
 
This was the Trubisky the Bears will need to see in the playoffs. If he’s better? That’s, of course, a bonus. But the Bears will be legitimate contenders to take a trip to Atlanta if Trubisky plays the way he did against Green Bay come January. 
 
“He stepped up to the plate,” running back Tarik Cohen said. “Whenever his number’s called, he’s going to make the play that needed to be made.” 

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How the Bears' schedule stacks up against the rest of the NFC North

How the Bears' schedule stacks up against the rest of the NFC North

We’ve known who the Bears will play in the 2019 regular season since New Year's Eve 2018, and have known where they'll play those opponents for even longer. That always makes the NFL’s schedule reveal sort of an odd phenomenon, especially because most of it gets leaked long before primetime shows air on NFL Network and ESPN. 

Additionally: Do we really know how good anyone is going to be in 2019, the Bears included? 

So yes, the Bears have the most difficult schedule of any team in the NFC North by virtue of playing fellow 2018 division winners New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. But a side-by-side comparison to the rest of the NFC North reveals the Bears’ schedule has both its drawbacks and advantages compared to the rest of the division: 

Different opponents

Bears: @ Rams, Saints (division winners)
Vikings: @ Seahawks, Falcons
Packers: @ 49ers, Panthers
Lions: @ Cardinals, Buccaneers

The Bears, undoubtedly, have the toughest pairing of NFC opponents here. But the Vikings having to go to Seattle — where they lost a year ago — isn’t easy against the 12th man, and the Falcons still have a powerful offense and could rebound to contention with an improved defense. 

As for the Packers, San Francisco should be much improved with Jimmy Garoppolo returning from a season-ending injury along with adding Dee Ford, Kwon Alexander, Tevin Coleman and whoever they pick second overall in next week. A healthy Cam Newton could do wonders for the Panthers, too. 

The Lions have two of the likely worst teams in the NFL, though questions remain if the Lions are any good anyways. 

The verdict: The Bears have the toughest pairing, but the Vikings and Packers don’t necessarily have easy ones, either. 

Different locations

Bears: @ Broncos, @ Raiders (London), @ Washington, @ Eagles, Chiefs, Chargers, Giants, Cowboys
Vikings: @ Kansas City, @ Chargers, @ Cowboys, @ Giants, Broncos, Raiders, Washington, Eagles
Packers: @ Kansas City, @ Chargers, @ Cowboys, @ Giants, Broncos, Raiders, Washington, Eagles
Lions: @Broncos, @ Raiders, @ Washington, @ Eagles, Chiefs, Chargers, Giants, Cowboys

The Bears and Lions, theoretically, got the easier draw in the AFC West with the Chiefs and Chargers — two of the AFC’s best teams in 2018 — at home, with the Broncos and Raiders at home. But this is worth noting given the timing of the Broncos’ game in Week 2:

Worth noting, too: The Chargers, who for one more year will play in a soccer stadium that’s usually full of opposing teams’ fans, had a 6-2 record on a road in 2018. 

But missing the Chiefs on the road is a good thing for the Bears — outside of fans losing out on a trip to Joe’s Kansas City. The game being in Week 16 could be fascinating, especially if both the teacher (Andy Reid) and protege (Matt Nagy) have something for which to play. Of course, there are eight months separating now and that game, so plenty could happen. 

Drawing Washington and New York on the road would’ve been the most ideal, but that didn’t happen with any team in the division, so right now it looks like a wash between how the NFC East opponents line up. 

The verdict: The Bears probably have the most favorable-looking schedule of any team here given they get the Raiders in, effectively, a neutral-site game (that likely will be heavily attended by Bears fans at Tottenham’s stadium). Whether or not Denver's uncanny success at home early in the season continues in the Vic Fangio regime remains to be seen. 

Time off

Opponents following an off week: Saints (Bears), at Seahawks (Vikings), at 49ers (Packers), at Packers (Lions)

Opponents following a Thursday night game: At Broncos, at Packers (Bears), at Chiefs (Vikings), Vikings, at Cowboys (Packers), at Vikings (Lions). 

The verdict: This isn’t a huge deal — the Bears had the quickest turnaround in NFL history from their Sunday night game against the Vikings to their Thanksgiving afternoon game against the Lions and wound up fine last year. 

Bears fans on Twitter excited for challenging 2019 schedule

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USA TODAY

Bears fans on Twitter excited for challenging 2019 schedule

The Bears 2019 regular season schedule is set after a day of leaks preceded the full reveal.

The opponents were no mystery but the order is locked in and fans are understandably excited for the season.

The reaction on Twitter showed respect for the quality of opponents on the slate, but of course, there was no shortage of optimism flowing out of Chicago.