Matt Nagy liked some of the throws Mitch Trubisky made in Sunday’s 16-14 win over the Arizona Cardinals, at least the ones he threw with conviction.
“I say to myself, that right there is what we’re about to get to,” Nagy said.
Trubisky, indeed, did throw a few completions with what looked like conviction upon first and second viewing. There was a 25-yard strike to tight end Trey Burton in the second quarter, a 39-yard completion to Allen Robinson after the receiver got open with an excellent double move, and a 12-yard laser to Burton that sparked what wound up being the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.
But still plaguing the second-year quarterback were inaccurate throws, especially downfield, and some questionable decision-making. So that brought up a question to Nagy in his regular Monday press conference: Is Trubisky mentally full or at capacity as he works to learn the offense?
“I think that it's probably getting close,” Nagy said. “It's not fair to him if it gets -- remember what I told you before, there's that balance of knowing what he can and can't handle. And not just him now too, but we have 10 other guys on this offense that this is their first time learning it. So, they need to be able to go through these routes and these plays for the first time as well.
“When you feel like it's getting close to that breaking point or too much, you got to pull back. And so I feel like we've done a pretty good job so far with that. We'll continue to monitor that and see where he's at. We'll talk to him, we'll get feedback from him, as well as the other guys, and then try to figure out the 'why' part. Why aren't we where we want to be?
“So, there's some common sense to it of knowing that it's going t o take a little time, but then there's some, 'Hey, let's start doing the little things the right way, the details.' And let's make sure that we as coaches are pitting these players in the best position possible.”
A number of incomplete passes thrown by Trubisky on Sunday warrant additional scrutiny.
He didn’t connect with an open Robinson on what would’ve been a 21-yard touchdown in the second quarter, firing the ball behind his receiver when an accurate pass would’ve almost certainly resulted in seven points. Nagy, though, pointed to there being some pass rushing pressure near Trubisky’s knees, which made it more difficult for him to make an accurate throw.
A few plays earlier, Taylor Gabriel looked like he had a step in the end zone, but Trubisky overthrew him from the 36-yard line. He had time to throw and showed better pocket awareness, but wasn’t able to get the throw right.
Those are the kind of throws the Bears expect Trubisky to hit, even if you add “eventually” to that sentence. Connecting on deep shots will be critical to the success of this offense going forward — not only will can those spark Trubisky and the offense, but it would force opposing defenses to back off the line of scrimmage a bit. Arizona sold out to stop Jordan Howard, committing eight or more men to the box on 42 percent of the running back’s attempts (which is in line with the rate of stacked boxes he faced in 2017). It’s clear that Arizona and, a week ago, Seattle went into facing the Bears’ offense with the plan of not letting Howard beat them — or, alternatively, making Trubisky prove he can beat them.
“We need to start connecting on those,” Nagy said. “It’s great to take the opportunity of going deep. Those are great. but they’re way better and they mean a lot more when you connect on them.”
Until Trubisky’s accuracy and decision-making improve, though, the Bears’ offense will have to hang its hat on its ability to grind out drives that, at the least, give the defense a breather. Nagy cited the Bears’ time of possession — which averages 34:42, second-highest in the NFL — as something with which he’s pleased. But it also bears noting Nagy’s old team, the best-offense-in-the-league Kansas City Chiefs, rank 25th in average time of possession (27:48).
So if the explosive plays aren’t coming, what Nagy is focusing on is better efficiency to end those lengthy drives with touchdowns instead of field goals. For an offense that’s still a work in progress, starting with that goal sounds like a realistic idea.
And, it's worth noting here too: The Bears have won more games than they've lost. It's certainly better to be winning games than not when going through what Trubisky and the Bears' offense is right now.
“When you're a quarterback in this offense and you're not going three and out and you're not using your punter, you know what that does? That helps your defense out because they get a breather,” Nagy said. “And so, understand that there's two parts to that. Where do we got to get better? We got to get better in the red zone. And that's where we need to improve right now. We're moving the ball and getting first downs. We're chewing up the clock and we're getting stopped in the red zone and we're kicking field goals and we need to get touchdowns.”