At the 5:19 mark in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the New York Giants, Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky lowered his shoulder into Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins on his way to the end zone for the Bears’ second touchdown of the day, a designed run for a quarterback whose lack of running often comes into question.
“You saw some nice runs right up the middle where he extended plays,” head coach Matt Nagy said. “He’s a weapon when he does that. You could feel that. It was good.”
Trubisky and the Bears put together their best offensive performances of the season, with Trubisky completing 25 of 41 passes for 278 yards and a touchdown. He added 18 rushing yards and a touchdown on seven carries, three of which were kneel-downs to cap off a 19-14 home victory.
Nagy and the Bears coaching staff seemed to make a concerted effort to get Trubisky on the move and go up-tempo with the offense. Incorporating play-action and getting Trubisky rolling outside the pocket opened up shots that he had previously been unable to hit.
He was particularly effective in the middle of the field, taking advantage of Anthony Miller and Allen Robinson’s route-running ability from the slot, as well as the Giants’ weak secondary, particularly at nickelback and safety. Robinson’s two biggest plays, a 32-yard touchdown and a 49-yard catch and run, came from the slot, while Miller, whose route spacing savviness had been an issue in the past, had six receptions for 77 yards lining up there.
“We like A-Rob in the slot,” Trubisky said. “Especially against the guys they had lining up over him and he did a great job getting open all day long, and if you put him in favorable match-ups he’s usually going to win, and the O-line did a great job giving me time, and I just got to give him the ball.”
Trubisky’s day didn’t come without flaws, as evidenced by his two interceptions, but it was clear he looked more comfortable, partly because of the Bears’ willingness to go up-tempo, a style that clearly fits Trubisky’s play.
“I can just see the defense not thinking as much, guys are in their spots, worried about the play clock,” Trubisky said. “You’re just seeing space, you’re seeing the defense and you’re kind of just reacting, and it’s something I’ve been doing my whole life, so it’s more natural for me”
After another brutal first-half in which the Bears put up three points, the adjustments they made at halftime, such as increased play-action and no-huddle offense, gave the offense the spark it needed. But perhaps the biggest turning point came when the Bears were up only 13-7 and Khalil Mack did something he hadn’t done since October: Sack the quarterback. In doing so, he forced a fumble by Daniel Jones which the Bears recovered, setting up Trubisky’s rushing touchdown.
“It was a big momentum shift,” outside linebacker Leonard Floyd said. “Once he made that play, I feel like everyone else started making plays too. It was big for us.”
It may not reflect in the box score, but Khalil Mack was everywhere, consistently getting pressure on the Giants rookie quarterback Jones and destroying an offensive line that has been a problem for years now. With a sack, three total tackles and two quarterback hits, Mack looked like himself again.
“Credit to all the players on defense, to the coaches, for these guys really fighting, and you felt 52 everywhere today,” Nagy said. “You really did. He was everywhere. You know, when we have that, you can feel our game really elevate, and that’s what it’s all about.”
The Bears defense has maintained a high level of play all year long, despite more lapses than were seen last year. Through 10 games, they were eighth in total yards allowed and fourth in points per game allowed. Sunday, they dominated an offense they were simply better than, shutting down Saquon Barkley and effectively neutering the Giants offense. Barkley, possibly the best running back in the NFL when he’s right, got 59 yards on 17 carries and no touchdowns. Jones was 21-of-36 for 150 yards passing and the Giants offense put up only 243 total yards.
Albeit, the Giants are a bad football team, but for the Bears at this point, the season is about saving face. Just from an optics-perspectives, the Bears have to keep winning their winnable games so that their first-round pick the Raiders have keeps falling. The defense has continued to play hard, fast and fun, having yet to deal with any notable locker room issues. The Bears got chunk plays they’d missed all year and finally looked like a real football team. They’ll have another opportunity for a win on Thanksgiving when they face the Lions, a team searching for even more answers.
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Hear audio from Matt Nagy, Mitchell Trubisky, Allen Robinson, Leonard Floyd and Charles Leno Jr.: