Mitch Trubisky was the star of the show last night, to be sure.
And after posting back-to-back games with passer ratings north of 110, three touchdowns, and 70 percent completions, I totally understand why the gut reaction is to point out his return from the depths of quarterbacking purgatory. However, I can’t help but think about the more impressive return from the abyss that belongs to his head coach.
Matt Nagy — the NFL’s 2018 Coach of the Year winner — is back.
For starters, check out Trubisky’s passing chart:
Mitchell Trubisky attempted a quick pass (< 2.50 seconds) on a season-high 65% of attempts tonight.@Mtrubisky10 is 30/36, 310 yards & 4 TD (139.6 passer rating) on quick attempts over his last 2 games (83.4 passer rating over his first 10 games).#DALvsCHI | #Bears100 pic.twitter.com/RZLeeSE9KS
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 6, 2019
Yes, Trubisky was exceptional last night. There is no denying it. But Trubisky’s ability to operate within the offense really put that thing in motion in front of a national audience.
There aren’t a ton of deep throws on the graphic above, but there didn’t need to be. Trubisky ran the show with a quick release, accurate and well-placed balls on short and intermediate routes, and ultimately allowed his play-makers to do work in space. Most importantly, Trubisky played winning football while working within the confines of the system. It was a joy to watch, especially knowing that it was the little things added up to a big scoring day for the Bears offense.
Yesterday, I offered up a checklist of things I wanted to see Trubisky do last night (and the rest of this season). And much to my surprise, we saw most of them against the Cowboys.
Oh, and I cannot stress this enough: They worked.
First-down passes? Check. Trubisky completed 9 of 11 first-down pass attempts for 111 yards. The five completions that did not result in first down put the Bears in 2nd-and-7 (twice), 2nd-and-5, 2nd-and-4, and 2nd-and-3. Easy first-down completions put Trubisky in a rhythm, then allowed David Montgomery to chip away at Dallas’ defense. Montgomery had runs of 8, 4, 3, 2, and 2 on second down. And even though there were also three runs that gained no yards on second down, the efficiency of the Bears’ passing game on first down left the Bears in manageable third-down spots.
More “10” personnel? Allen Robinson’s first and second touchdown receptions were run from four-receiver sets, as was Trubisky’s 23-yard touchdown run. Anthony Miller’s touchdown catch came in a three-receiver package. Spreading the field allowed Trubisky to identify spots he could throw to against the Cowboys’ defense. And in the case of his rushing touchdown, where he can run to open spots to gain chunks of yards. Sure, some of those throws were made in tight windows and Trubisky deserves credit for throwing darts and dimes. But Nagy’s formations and play designs put the offense in a position to succeed from the jump.
Two tight end usage? There was some of that, but I was more impressed with how the Bears used their two healthy tight ends (J.P. Holtz and Jesper Horsted) on Thursday. Holtz and Horsted combined to catch seven passes for 92 yards. They were available on short passes and intermediate routes, and since they made the most of their opportunities, the Cowboys defense had to respect their presence on the field. It had been a while since opposing defenses had to account for Bears tight ends. Maybe you don’t need star tight ends to make this thing go, after all.
For so much of this year, we have talked about how the problems with the Bears offense were about more than the quarterback. There were problems with play calls, designs, personnel deployment, offensive line execution, and other aspects that held the Bears back for so long. But last night, we saw what it looked like when everything worked together in unison. That is what a professional offense is supposed to look like. Better late than never, I suppose.
So to say “the Bears are back” is too simplistic. As is proclaiming that Trubisky is undoubtedly some sort of franchise quarterbacking savior. And while I realize I’m stepping out on a ledge typing this, Nagy — after all the talk about the incremental progress that was showing up everywhere but the box score — appears to have found his groove. And Trubisky is along for the ride with him.