Nothing Mitch Trubisky did in the Bears’ 38-31 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday shook the confidence of his coaches or teammates in the long-term outlook for their franchise quarterback. If anything, most of what he did continued to show those guys his development is trending in the right direction.
“Mitch is a good-ass quarterback,” right tackle Bobby Massie said. “He’s got ability to do a lot of things. He’s young, but he’s going to be a special player. You see glimpses of that last year, and you see more of it this year. In years to come he’s going to be a hell of a player.”
Trubisky’s final stat line is deceiving in some respects, though. He completed 26 of 50 passes, good for a completion percentage of 52 percent, for 333 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and a passer rating of 69.8. He’s now thrown for over 300 yards in three consecutive games, joining Josh McCown and Brian Hoyer as the only quarterbacks to do that in franchise history.
While taking away the last-ditch drive and completion to White — that got the Bears about a yard away from tying or winning the game — shouldn’t be completely ignored in the overall evaluation of Trubisky’s game, he completed 22 of 45 passes for 254 yards before New England’s defense sat as far back as they could with 24 seconds left.
Trubisky’s accuracy was uneven during the game, which Nagy chalked up to something that happens with a young quarterback having to throw so frequently.
“When you throw the ball 50 times, there's going to be some that are inaccurate,” Nagy said. “This is this kid's second year in the NFL, and this is his first year in our offense. So not everything is going to be dead on. He had a good game today.”
It wasn’t good enough for the Bears to win, though, which is what ultimately counts. Yes, two special teams touchdowns were backbreaking, and the defense struggled with the Patriots’ ability to get the ball out quick and efficiently do the simple things right.
But Trubisky threw two interceptions, one when he tried to make a play on third and long and the ball appeared to bounce out of the arms of Josh Bellamy and into the waiting hands of Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson.
The other, though, came when Anthony Miller had a step on safety Jonathan Jones. Instead of leading Miller into the end zone, Trubisky under threw the ball a touch, turning what could’ve been a touchdown throw into a 50-50 ball.
Jones made a spectacular play to intercept the pass, and New England engineered a 96-yard scoring drive after it that put the Bears down 14 in the fourth quarter.
“I thought I could have put it out there a little further,” Trubisky said. “I loved Anthony's route he ran, and I threw it a little later than I wanted to because I had to check protection to make sure I gave a slide call to make sure we could pick up the blitz that they brought through, and I just bounced back to the other side, so it was a little later than I wanted to be.
"But I thought he ran a great route, loved how he took it high, and I just got pushed out there a little further, but it was a 50/50 ball, and he had a chance to get it, and the other guy had a chance to get it, and the other dude made a great play.”
The Patriots’ defense did well to take away Taylor Gabriel — who had been Trubisky’s favorite target over the last few weeks — by shading a cornerback to the receiver’s inside shoulder and playing a safety over the top consistently. Allen Robinson was hampered by a groin issue and didn’t make an impact (five targets, one catch, four yards).
What the Bears liked from Trubisky, though, was how he switched to relying on Trey Burton (11 targets, nine catches, 129 yards, one touchdown) and stuck with Tarik Cohen (12 targets, eight catches, 69 yards, one touchdown).
Trubisky was outstanding running the ball, scrambling over 70 yards for an eight-yard touchdown and deftly extending a run into a 39-yard gain in the third quarter. His team-best 81 rushing yards on six attempts were an effective counter-punch to what Belichick threw at him.
But Trubisky threw two passes in the end zone that could’ve — and probably should’ve — been picked off. Those two throws were concerning given Trubisky threw a momentum-shifting interception in the end zone last week in Miami.
“He forced one in the end zone that everyone is holding your breath when he throws it, and that can happen sometimes with a young quarterback,” Nagy said. “But that was one of the ones that he knew right away 'I shouldn't have done that.'”
The highs and lows are all part of the long-term development of a young quarterback paired with a first-time coach. That’s a critically-important backdrop with which to evaluate Trubisky, Nagy and the Bears’ offense.
But the Bears still have plenty to prove in 2018, with this at the top of the list: Can this team be a playoff contender with a quarterback trending in the right direction, but still going through the growing pains of inexperience?
“It’s early in the year, still a lot of games left, a lot of ball to be played and we’re a good-ass team,” Massie said. “There’s no need to be like oh, woe is me. We’re still gonna make a run at this thing. We gotta fix what needs to be fixed and we’ll be good.”