Playoff football is where legends are made and legacies are written. And with that being said, Mitch Trubisky has his work cut out for him.
No pressure, kid.
Trubisky made major, tangible signs of improvement from his rookie season. But whether he can take another step in his development in the postseason is still to be determined. We might get a good sense later this afternoon on where Trubisky is in his career arc. To this point, Trubisky is better now than what he was as a rookie and definitely is head-and-shoulders above what he was where this year started. The progress hasn’t been linear, but it’s been real.
For Trubisky to succeed today against the Philadelphia Eagles, he’ll need to play good situational football. And the good news is that he’s shown that he is capable of doing so (and in important games, too). So while the term “situational football” seems to get thrown around a lot, let’s sort through the verbiage and the corresponding numbers so we can get down to what it actually means.
OPENING DRIVE SUCCESS COULD BE VITAL
There was a time this season when Trubisky’s success was attributed to scripted plays out of the gate. And to be fair, there was some truth in the numbers. Trubisky would get off to hot starts, but fade once the game settled in. Trubisky has settled in better as the year has gone on, but engineering a successful opening drive would make for a nice start to his first career playoff game.
Here are Trubisky’s first drive numbers this year:
- 35/45 (77.8%)
- 342 yards
- 2 TD (4.4 TD%)
- 1 INT (2.2 INT%)
- 7.6 Yards/attempt
- 98.6 rating
The Bears offense scored six times (five touchdowns) on its opening possession, turned it over just once, punted five times, and missed two scoring chances because of misfired field goals. So technically, Trubisky and the offense has driven into scoring position to start the game in half of their contests. Not bad. But three of the five touchdown drives came in the first four weeks. And if you look at three of the last four games, things haven’t looked great as two of those drives ended in punts and a third finished with an interception.
But sometimes, it’s not how you start … it’s how you finish.
IS MITCH TRUBISKY GROWING INTO A CLOSER?
We entered this year hoping the Bears would make an Eagles-like rise in 2018, but our priorities were clear from the get-go and the thing we wanted to see most was Trubisky take clear steps forward in his development. So even though it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, there have been moments throughout the year one can point at and highlight as real development. The latest signs have come in Trubisky’s last three games.
Because while the Bears are looking for Trubisky to start off on the right foot, there has been an emphasis on closing games since the beginning of the year. Let’s face it, the Bears had to do some on-the-job learning in order to figure out how to successfully ice games away. It’s something that simply wasn’t in their DNA at the outset of the season, but it looks like something they have a grasp on now.
The trend started in the team’s Week 15 win against the Green Bay Packers, when Trubisky threw a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Trey Burton to give the Bears a lead and ultimately a win. It was the first touchdown pass from a Bears quarterback to break a tie or take the lead in a win against the Packers since October, 7, 2007. Progress!
Starting with that moment, Trubisky has been money in the fourth quarter:
- 16/20 (80%)
- 117 yards
- 1 TD, 0 INT
- 6.2 yards/attempt
- 2 sacks
- 107.7 rating
In this three-game sample, we’re looking at numbers from a player in moments that served as elimination games for two divisional rivals eliminated and a third contest on the road against a team that puts up a good fight when defending its home turf. These stats aren’t inconsequential.
OK, so Trubisky hasn’t made huge plays in crunch time. But in the last three games, he didn’t need to do so. Trubisky was tasked with putting the game on ice and making the plays that were in front of him. One of the most common criticisms of Trubisky’s game early in the season was an inability to consistently make the easy throws when necessary, but he seems to have righted the ship based on this late-season production.
To see efficiency and production in this area is encouraging, to say the least
GOING GREEN IN THE RED ZONE
Part of the Bears’ scoring woes in recent years was red zone efficiency. Between not getting there enough and settling for field goals instead of touchdowns, there were plenty of points left on the field and off the scoreboard.
The 2018 Bears visited the red zone more often this season and put up more points. A chunk of credit should go to Trubisky, who has been adept when in scoring range:
— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) December 31, 2018
To put that 101.9 passer rating in perspective, Trubisky posted a 78.9 passer rating in the red zone as a rookie. He completed just 48.2 percent of his passes and was limited to just 4 TD (though, only 1 INT isn’t awful). A year later, Trubisky bumped up that completion percentage to 61.7 and threw 17 touchdowns. That’s a massive improvement from one year to the next.
For the Bears to pick up their first playoff win since January 2011, they’ll need a complete team effort. That means the quarterback is going to have to make plays at some point to lead his team to victory. Trubisky has shown flashes as he has developed this season. But this next test is one he has never faced before. Here’s hoping he’s up to the task.