Normally pre-season NFL games do not spark much interest beyond die hard fans, bettors, and player personnel directors.
Both of the Chicago Bears 2021 exhibition games have had hype normally reserved for regular season contests. The first game was the professional debut of first round draft pick Justin Fields. Saturday’s second game was the return to Soldier Field of Mitch Trubisky, the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. Due to reasons that may have been beyond the former Tar Heel’s control, Trubisky was not brought back for a fifth season in Chicago.
“It was different coming back here to Chicago obviously because I spent a lot time here the last four years,” he said in post game interviews. “It was awesome to see all the guys and coaches before the game, catching up with those guys, and then how supportive everybody in the Bills locker room was for me. I am just really grateful to be a part of this team and it was a lot of fun today. So we still got work to do. It just felt good to come back and perform well and play well at Soldier Field.”
Perform well he did. Trubisky showed what he could do with a good offensive line. In just one half of play he connected for 20 of 28 attempts for 221 yards and a touchdown. “It felt good to come back and play well. I owe a lot of that to my teammates, run after catch, great plays on defense, great plays special teams, dominated the field position in turnover battle in the first half, and we did our job and scored points. I just thought we were efficient. I feel comfortable on the offense going down, and it felt good to do it against these guys.” Mitch led his team to six scoring drives and a commanding 34-6 halftime lead.
But I’m also rooting for a lot those guys on the other side and they’re still like family to me.– Mitch Trubisky
Matt Nagy addressed Trubisky’s return in his post game press conference. “I thought he looked really good. He was playing very efficient, making good throws. Again, you know, for us, the personal side of that, it’s always — you spend three years with somebody, and you try to help and do everything you can and he does the same. He’s on a new path and we’re on a new path, and I think he did a good job today. They did a good job coaching. So it’s a credit to them.”
However, Nagy was really there to talk about his young prospect at quarterback. “When he’s back there doing things, how many times did we see where the pocket collapses and all of a sudden you go, okay, here we go again, he’s going to go outside of the edge and take off. The other thing is he’s being super smart and he’s not taking dumb hits. You always are scared down there when you’re down there that he’s going to take a senseless hit when he’s scrambling. But I love the fact that that’s a weapon when you have him using his legs like that. That’s real. And I think we’ve felt that the last two weeks with him and it’s neat to see. You feel that. So I know he was itching to get in there a little bit earlier and now he got going in the third.”
The one thing that you notice with him is you get to game day and he really gets that laser focus on game day-Matt Nagy on Justin Fields
Nagy also addressed the apparent revolving door of offensive lineman.”You want to be careful and especially you want to try to be careful getting too one-dimensional but again, the evaluation process of seeing those players, the depth players, it is what it is. It’s just kind of the situation we’re in right now and there’s not much we can do for that, and so we’ve just got to keep doing our best to evaluate him based off of that play that time. You know, taking everything else, put it aside, how did he do that play.”
Fields also talked about his second dress rehearsal of the season. “I feel like I got better each and every day this week,” he said. “I feel like of course this game didn’t go the way that we wanted it to but we just have to eliminate the mistakes that we had. We had too many penalties in my opinion, too many false starts, too many holding calls. Seemed like when we got a positive play it was always coming back, so if we can be able to eliminate those penalties, eliminate those self-mistakes I feel like we can get a rhythm going and drive the ball down the field and score.
I feel like I’m in a good place now mentally.-Justin Fields
Fields continued, “I feel good about my progression every day and how I’m practicing and getting in the film room and learning to the playbook. So now it’s just getting reps and reps and reps and just keep getting those reps, keep building that repertoire of plays and you know, plays like that — plays like on the field today where I got kind of hit out there, you just learn from those plays and go back to the film room and get better.”
Somewhat forgotten in the Fields vs Trubisky hype is the actual game one starter for Chicago, Andy Dalton. “I just feel like for us we didn’t get into much of a rhythm early and you know, consecutive three-and-outs, we started to get a drive together and then we had a turnover and penalties that set us back at times and so we’d like to be a little more efficient and consistent with our performance. It was nice to get the deep ball to Rodney, he made an unbelievable play, and for him to have just had a baby make that play, I think he rocked the baby afterwards. That was pretty good. There’s some takeaways that we can say, there’s some things we did well. But overall we would like to be more consistent.”
Consistency is something sorely lacking on this team. The Bears better find it, and find it fast. Otherwise they will have another season of bobbing either just above or just below the .500 mark.
All photos by SRN Broadcasting.