A common thought about Mitch Trubisky is that he’s only played well against bad defenses — the Buccaneers and Lions, most notably, with the Dolphins included in there too.
But it’s not like Trubisky just walked onto the field with 355 yards against the Lions last week. There were a number of decisions and throws he made that, while coming against a discombobulated and depleted defense, can carry over to when he faces a better defense Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings.
To wit: When Anthony Miller dashed open as the Lions blew a coverage, Trubisky still had to make the correct decision and right throw for it to turn into the 45-yard touchdown it did.
“Find an open guy and throw it to him. That's what we did,” coach Matt Nagy said. “He has a progression. And so whether it's a blown coverage or a wide receiver runs a good route and beats a guy, as long as he's sticking within that progression and going from one, two, three, maybe four, or one, two, three, to run, etc., as long as he stays within that we're good.”
This may seem like a bare minimum for a quarterback, but in the 2018 development of Trubisky, it’s important. He missed open receivers far too frequently in the first few games of the season, and still has had that problem crop up as recently as the Bears’ Week 7 loss to the New England Patriots.
But the Bears are seeing throw-to-throw development from Trubisky, no matter the defense they’re facing. And it’s that improved consistency with accuracy and decision-making that give this coaching staff confidence he’ll be able to handle a salty Vikings defense on Sunday night.
“We'll do what we do,” Nagy said. “Every defense, every week is going to have a different scheme and a way to attack. They're going to look at things that we do and try to prepare in their self-evaluation and their scouting reports on us. That's the chess match of coaching. But we'll continue to play the way we've been playing and if we feel like wherever our weaknesses are we'll try to make those become strengths and vice versa.”
Leonard Floyd recorded his first sack of the season last week against the Lions, an important marker for the 2016 top-10 pick. But defensive coordinator Vic Fangio admitted something interesting in the days after Floyd brought down Matthew Stafford.
“A lot of what happened with Leonard, too, is those first four weeks with his hand, especially the first three with the cast, we probably played him too much,” Fangio said. “You guys are seeing him not being productive and start asking about a bunch of questions. And then the first game where he had the small cast on, he wasn't confident enough to throw it in there consistently. He was a little tentative. So I don’t think we’ve seen what he can or can’t do until these last couple of games.”
Floyd played 77, 59 and 64 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps in the first three weeks of the season, and played Weeks 1 and 2 with a protective club on his injured right hand. But even as his hand healed, his production didn’t return — at least, until the last three weeks.
In addition to that sack, Floyd has 12 total pressures in his last three games, accepting for 75 percent of his season total. He also has three quarterback hits in his last two games after only having one in his first eight games.
One and done?
How does the University of Colorado firing their football coach affect the Bears? Their offensive coordinator could be a candidate for that opening.
ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg reported Sunday, following Colorado firing coach Mike MacIntyre, that Bears offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich could be a candidate for the opening. Helfrich spent his entire coaching career in college — including four seasons as Oregon’s head coach from 2013-2016 — and coached in the Pac-10/12 for 15 years. He was Colorado’s offensive coordinator from 2006-2008.
This report shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given the success of the Bears’ offense and how offensive coordinators — even if they’re not calling plays — are in high demand. Even if Helfrich didn’t return to the college ranks, another NFL team could try to lure him with play-calling duties, as the Tennessee Titans did with former Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur after the 2017 season.