Bears

Next step for Mitchell Trubisky: Becoming a closer

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USA TODAY

Next step for Mitchell Trubisky: Becoming a closer

The leadership qualities of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky have taken shape and root through the Bears’ 6-3 start, one that has included two three-game win streaks. Nothing succeeds at making believers like success. 

But beyond specific developmental steps the second-year quarterback has made, is making and will make in an evolving offense, and beyond coaches’ and teammates’ believing in him, is a crucial next step that the elites at the position take:

Becoming a closer. In fourth quarters.

The Bears are 5-2 when leading after three quarters, but only 1-1 when trailing after three. In his 21 games, Trubisky has delivered two late game-winning drives – for a winning field goal in overtime last year at Baltimore, and for a winning field goal at Arizona this year.

But in the Bears’ three 2018 losses, irrespective of defensive failures, Trubisky and the offense managed just three points in the fourth quarter at Green Bay, and one fourth-quarter touchdown each in the losses to Miami and New England. The Bears were outscored in the fourth quarters against Detroit and Tampa Bay but were already sufficiently far ahead (35-3 vs. the Buccaneers, 34-10 vs. the Lions) that late scores weren’t really necessary.

Trubisky is clear on the situational needs: “Coming out with a positive drive starter, no negative plays and then have an explosive play,” he said. “And then usually that results in good plays for us. So we can get that and keep getting better and finish in the end zone or finish with points, whatever the situation is, that’s what we need to do.”

Trubisky has been significantly better this year in fourth quarters than he was in 2017, in every quarter, actually: 64.4 percent completion percentage, 8.03 yards per attempt, a 97.7 passer rating, ahead of Ben Roethlisberger, Alex Smith and Case Keenum, among others.

The problem is that his level of play ranks just 20th among fourth-quarter passers. Minnesota will come to Soldier Field on Sunday behind Kirk Cousins, the No. 5 crunch-time passer, with a 1.1-percent interception rate, compared to Trubisky’s 3.4.

A focus this week has been third-down efficiency, against a Minnesota defense ranked No. 1 in fewest third-down conversions (25.7 percent). Trubisky ranks 13th in third-down passing, with a 99.0 rating.

But a blowout is unlikely, meaning that sometime late Sunday evening, the Bears and Trubisky will have the football in a situation needing a finishing kick. At that time, they will be pressed to answer some of Matt Nagy’s core questions.

“When you’re winning in a game, how do you finish?” Nagy said. “When you’re losing in a game, how do you come back? All those are occurring to us.

“You’re seeing that when you put together a team of good people, that responds to adversity, it helps you. We’re drilling to these guys aggressive, aggressive, aggressive, finish, finish, finish. If we don’t do that as coaches, then what are we teaching?”

 

USWNT star Carli Lloyd has received inquiries from NFL teams after hitting 55-yard field goal

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USA TODAY

USWNT star Carli Lloyd has received inquiries from NFL teams after hitting 55-yard field goal

Could Carli Lloyd become the next big multi-sport athlete?

Lloyd, a star soccer player and two-time World Cup champion with the U.S. women's national team, attended Philadelphia Eagles training camp this week. The 37-year-old lined up for a few field goals, drilling a 55-yarder along the way.

NFL teams took notice of Lloyd's kicking prowess. In an interview with Sports Illustrated's Planet Fútbol TV, Lloyd said she's received some inquiries following her kicking demonstration.

“I’ve definitely got some inquiries, I’ve definitely got some people talking," Lloyd said. "Anything is possible but right now, I’m strictly a soccer player and we’ll see what the future holds.”

Lloyd is a legendary soccer player, so one shouldn't be surprised at her kicking prowess. However, her accuracy is extremely impressive, especially considering that she was kicking through skinny/non-NFL regulation uprights.

Following the double doink that ended their 2018 season abruptly, the Bears' offseason has been defined by their kicking vacancy. Even though Lloyd said she's strictly a soccer player, perhaps the Bears should give her a call. Maybe they already have?

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Report: Colts will start third-string quarterback against Bears

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USA TODAY

Report: Colts will start third-string quarterback against Bears

Don’t call the Bears third preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts a “dress rehearsal,” because neither team is treating it that way.

Matt Nagy has been clear about how he feels about playing his starters in the preseason, and injury concerns are leading the Colts to follow the trend.

With Andrew Luck injured, backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett is their de-facto starter, so head coach Frank Reich plans to sit him too, according to The Athletic.

Third-string quarterback Chad Kelly is expected to get the start, with former undrafted free agent Phillip Walker to follow.

The nephew of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly was a seventh-round pick by the Denver Broncos in 2017. He connected on just under 70 percent of his passes in the first two preseason games but is averaging only 6.6 yards per attempt.

Nicknamed “Swag” Kelly, he’s known as somewhat of a gunslinger, which could make for a more exciting preseason opponent under center.

He hasn’t had a turnover yet this preseason, but the Bears defense will be looking to nab his first.

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