If there’s one glimmer of positivity for the Bears’ offense with the rest of the season ahead of them, it’s this: Allen Robinson is absolutely a go-to receiver.
As in, Robinson is the kind of guy Mitch Trubisky can trust to come up with big catches when things aren’t going well, or in big moments. That trait was on display in the Bears’ playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last January, in which Robinson bossed the final 20 minutes of the game. It showed up again Thursday night, with Robinson snagging seven of 13 targets for 102 yards.
It was only the third time Robinson was targeted 10 or more times in his career with the Bears (2018 Week 2 and the wild card game being the others). This is an offense designed to spread the ball around, though, but showed there’s room for a true No. 1, go-to receiver in that.
To put it another way: Good basketball teams generally have a player who can be counted on to score in critical situations. Having a bunch of players who can score throughout a game is a good thing; having one player who can stand out in those big spots is just as, if not more, important. That’s what Robinson has proven to be to the Bears.
“At the end of the day, that’s what you want to be,” Robinson said. “You want to be in the situation to make a play, whether if it’s third and long or whatever the situation is. That’s what you train for, that’s what you work for. We work all offseason and everything like that to get in those situations to want to thrive.”
There is sort of a double-edged sword aspect to all this, though, which played out late in the Bears’ loss to the Green Bay Packers. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine called a well-executed disguised coverage that appeared to trick Trubisky into thinking Robinson would come open in the end zone just before the two-minute warning, only to have safety Adrian Amos readily waiting to jump the route and intercept the pass.
That wasn’t necessarily an instance of Trubisky forcing a pass to Robinson, given he said after Thursday’s game he didn’t keep his eyes on Amos long enough. But it was an example of how opposing defenses may try to combat Robinson’s impact going forward — especially given how Vic Fangio was so adept at disguising coverages while serving as the Bears’ defensive coordinator. The more Trubisky looks Robinson’s way, the more opposing defenses will try to take him away.
“Wherever the coverage takes the player, hopefully (Trubisky) goes with the ball there,” quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone said. “And at times the coverage, 13 times, potentially took him to Allen.”
Robinson, too, could’ve had an even bigger game had he been targeted more by Trubisky. There were a couple of instances where Robinson ran open but wasn’t targeted Thursday night.
And, too, as Trubisky put it: He can trust Robinson to make a catch even when he’s not strictly “open.” Robinson’s detail in setting up his routes, combined with his size and athleticism, allowed him to have the 100-yard game he had while averaging just 1.5 yards of separation, the third-lowest average among qualified receivers in Week 1, per NFL’s Next Gen Stats.
“I mean if he's open throw it to him, even when he's not he's open,” Trubisky said. “We want to be a balanced offense, we want to be a balanced attack and we've got so many weapons, we don't want the defenses to key in one guy.”
The Bears still feel comfortable with their other weapons, even if those weapons were part of the issues in a turgid three-point Week 1. Trubisky will need to go through his progressions to find Taylor Gabriel or Anthony Miller or Cordarrelle Patterson or Javon Wims or Adam Shaheen or, when he returns, Trey Burton. And as evidenced by the results of the Bears’ last two meaningful games: They need much more than just Robinson to win.
But what Robinson did in Week 1 and January’s wild card game is exactly what the Bears envisioned when they signed him to a three-year deal in 2018. That he’s not an outward diva only helps — though he admitted he, like every other wide receiver does have a little diva in him.
“I definitely do understand it as far as guys want the ball, guys want to be in good situations, guys want to do a lot of different things,” Robinson said. “For me personally, I just handle things a little differently.”
“… It’s good that you guys don’t notice,” Robinson added, laughing. “But, definitely, every receiver has a little bit of diva-ness in him.”
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