The Chicago Bears offense produced just one offensive touchdown, averaged only 4.9 yards per play, and gained just 274 yards of total offense on Monday. And yet, you could make a case for offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains calling a good game in Mitch Trubisky’s debut.
If you’re in search of silver linings after another close loss, look no further than how Loggains handled Trubisky’s first game. Of the 25 passes Trubisky threw, 21 came out of the shotgun formation – a familiar place for Trubisky who spent his 13-game career as North Carolina’s starter operating in those types of sets. One way to ease Trubisky into a professional offense is to put him in a comfortable place as often as possible. Putting him in the ever-so-familiar shotgun set, then, provided that smooth transition and gave Trubisky a better shot to see the field and process his reads and receiver’s routes.
However, it’s worth noting that Trubisky’s longest pass – a 20-yard touchdown to tight end Zach Miller – came on a play action bootleg that started with Trubisky under center.
Play action passes played an integral role in the Bears offense on Monday night, as Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus highlighting Trubisky’s 127.4 passer rating on play action passes compared to 30.8 without play action. Trubisky threw four first downs on play action passes, and would have picked up a fifth if Markus Wheaton’s grab on the sideline wasn’t overturned by replay review. If the Bears continue to show a true commitment to running the football, Trubisky’s numbers throwing out of play action will remain solid and could even stand to get better.
If Loggains is looking for inspiration as he creates a game plan for Sunday’s contest against the Baltimore Ravens, checking out what the Houston Texans are doing with Deshaun Watson is a good place to start. After throwing just five play action passes in his first start against the Cincinnati Bengals, Watson tossed 27 in Weeks 3 and 4. In the team’s Week 4 win against the Titans, Watson completed 6 of 10 play action passes for 119 yards and a passer rating of 141.3 according to Pro Football Focus’ data.
The play action looks haven’t just lead to pretty numbers, they have also allowed for Watson to have more time to throw. The league average time to get off a pass is 2.7 seconds, but play action pass attempts on Watson’s throws have given him an average of 3.4 seconds to get off a throw. Every tick on the clock counts, as we learned when Trubisky was sacked and stripped leading to the Vikings first score.
We saw how throwing on the run off play action created new throwing windows and different launch points for Trubisky. He’ll need those kinds of breaks if he’s going to make the most out of his time running this offense with the weapons he has at his disposal.