While Mike Glennon was slogging through his four ineffective starts, the message from John Fox — as to why he wasn’t going to make a quarterback change — was that the entire team needed to play better. After the Bears made the switch to Mitchell Trubisky, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said the rookie quarterback wasn’t a “magic wand” who could fix all the other problems plaguing the offense.
On Monday, both the Bears coach and offensive coordinator were proven right with sloppy play from the supporting cast around Trubisky, as well as the quarterback himself. Trubisky made a catastrophic decision late in the fourth quarter when he threw across his body toward Zach Miller, who was blanketed by All-Pro safety Harrison Smith. Smith picked the pass off at the Bears’ 22-yard line, setting up Kai Forbath’s game-winning field goal.
Trubisky was solid in the first quarter, then slogged through the second and third periods without much success. But a tipped pass into the hands of Zach Miller — and the mesmerizing two-point conversion that followed — re-invigorated the Bears, and the crowd at Soldier Field.
The Bears’ offense, especially early and late in the game, looked more dynamic with Trubisky under center. Trubisky routinely did things that weren’t asked of Glennon, like rolling out and throwing on a bootleg or running play action on a fake zone read. Trubisky clicked through his progressions and for the most part made good decisions — at least until that fourth quarter interception — though not necessarily good throws.
But consider this: On the Bears’ six possessions in the first half, they committed a penalty on four and fumbled on another (when Charles Leno was beat by Everson Griffen, leading to a sack-strip that set up Minnesota’s go-ahead field goal). Dion Sims dropped two passes and Trubisky’s accuracy escaped him for stretches, too.
Trubisky started the game with seven completions on nine attempts in the first quarter; he went 5/16 after the first 15 minutes.
It took Pat O’Donnell — yes, the punter — throwing a 38-yard touchdown to Benny Cunningham on a fake for the Bears to get in the end zone for the first time. That was a strong point in favor of coaching, but the Bears had to burn too many timeouts, including one early in the fourth quarter that meant the offense didn’t have even a slim chance to win the game after Forbath’s field goal.
Worth noting on defense: The Bears lost inside linebacker John Timu during the game, meaning they were down four players at that position (Timu, Jerrell Freeman, Nick Kwiatkoski and Danny Trevathan), and it showed on Jerrick McKinnon’s 58-yard touchdown. Timu, notably, was given defensive play-calling duties for this game.
The over-arching point for the Bears, though: They now have a regular-season data point on which to begin evaluating Trubisky. Where he is when the season ends Dec. 31 — against the Vikings — will be the most important storyline to follow in 2017. The interception he threw was a bad mistake, but it’s now a teaching point for Loggains and Dave Ragone.