A second-year quarterback shredded an NFL defense today, and for once it wasn’t Patrick Mahomes II. It wasn’t even Deshaun Watson. Mitchell Trubisky completed 19 of 26 passes for 354 yards, six touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He nearly met his 2017 touchdown total (seven) in just one game, and that was despite the Bears letting up on the gas at the end of their 48-10 win against Tampa Bay. It was awesome—and exactly what Bears fans have been waiting for.
Last week, we were wondering whether Trubisky could be a long-term option at quarterback for the Bears after he passed for just two touchdowns through three games. The Ringer’s Robert Mays—Chicago resident and Bears diehard—wrote that the fans’ level of concern with Trubisky’s development should be “steadily growing,” citing the quarterback’s startling hesitation in the pocket, inability to make decisions, and tendency to botch even the simplest of passes. “We’ve seen enough to know it’s time to start worrying,” Mays wrote.
Those concerns can hardly be laid to rest after just one game, but for at least this week, Chicago fans can breathe easy. Trubisky had his best game ever, not just as a Bear—he never even had a performance this impressive in his brief college career. It was a win not only for the Bears’ young quarterback, but also their head coach, Matt Nagy, who showed the kind of brilliant offensive game-planning he was known for as the offensive coordinator in Kansas City last year.
Let’s start with Trubisky’s best throw of the day—his second touchdown pass—a perfectly placed lob to wide receiver Allen Robinson:
This is what draft evaluators are talking about when they use the term “NFL throws.” Robinson was well-covered, and there was really only one place Trubisky could put it. And he got it right over Robinson’s shoulder, giving the former Jaguars receiver his first touchdown as a Bear.
Most of Trubisky’s throws didn’t come with that level of difficulty. That’s not a knock on Trubisky—it’s a credit to Nagy. Nagy came to Chicago with sky-high expectations, and with many thinking the Bears—with a progressive play-caller, promising defense, and second-year QB—could make the type of jump into relevance that the Rams made last year. This was the week the Bears offense finally looked like it could fulfill that hype. Trubisky had a number of easier throws, including his first touchdown to a wide-open Trey Burton, who was running an out-and-up route down the sideline:
Justin Evans, the defender covering Burton, fell down, though Trubisky released the football before Evans began to stumble. It didn’t matter, because Burton had Evans beat on the play. Either way, this was an easy throw for Trubisky—and easy throws were the theme of the day. Here’s Trubisky’s fourth touchdown pass, to a wide-open Josh Bellamy:
This is a similar-looking route to the Burton touchdown. And though this time the Bucs didn’t stumble, they completely lost track of the receiver. The Bears had a trips formation on their left side and faked a screen pass to Tarik Cohen. Two Bucs defenders bit on that fake and one followed Robinson down the field, leaving no one on Bellamy. Look closely and you can see Cohen with his hands raised in celebration before the ball even gets near Bellamy—he knows the deception has worked perfectly.
Trubisky’s sixth touchdown—his first of the second half—was another testament to great play design:
Robinson essentially ran a pick on this play, bumping the defender who was assigned to Taylor Gabriel and giving Gabriel a free release and Trubisky an easy completion. But Trubisky’s easiest “throw” came, by far, on his fifth touchdown pass:
✨ Magic Mitch ✨— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) September 30, 2018
This toss to Gabriel makes 5 for him in the 1st half. pic.twitter.com/sXqgdqRm07
That pass is a glorified handoff, so Trubisky doesn’t get much credit for it, but the play design from Nagy is immaculate. Check out the guy standing next to Trubisky in the backfield, who fakes like he’s getting the handoff after the snap. That’s not a running back—that’s backup quarterback Chase Daniel. There’s so much motion on this play—Nagy is just toying with the Buccaneers defense.
Trubisky is hardly on his way to the Pro Bowl after one game, but this performance showed how the Bears’ 2018 offense is supposed to work. No one is asking Trubisky to be Aaron Rodgers, but if he can hit the open receiver that Nagy schemes for him—and, crucially, if Khalil Mack can keep playing like an MVP candidate on the other side of the field—then the Bears, now 3-1, will comfortably earn a spot in the NFC’s playoff picture.