Bears Win Only Increases Frustration Over Earlier Troubles
Matt Nagy and Mitchell Trubisky did their best to dodge the big issue while acknowledging the obvious after Thursday's 31-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
Why did Trubisky suddenly become a running, more mobile quarterback again after playing most of the season like he thought they had put land mines on the other side of the line of scrimmage?
"We saw some things that we liked in regard to the run scheme," Nagy said. "Heck, whenever he's able to use his legs like that, he becomes another running back."
For weeks came comments about opponents playing zone defenses and it made it tough for Trubisky. Before the season even began there was Trubisky himself saying he needed to be more of a pocket passer and not a runner.
Yet Thursday night he didn't just scramble for 63 yards, Nagy had him moving all over the field in bootlegs and rollouts.
"It was Mitch playing football. That's all it is," running back David Montgomery said. "The plan was letting him go out there and be Mitch."
The moving of the pocket also seemed to help the running game. Dallas wasn't able to tee off on Montgomery when they had to look to see where he was taking the handoff or the pitchout, and Tarik Cohen as well.
"Changing the pocket, the landmark for where he's at, it also helps the O-line, too," Nagy said. "It's one thing for a quarterback to get outside of the pocket, you get away from all that stuff. You can't do it all the time. You have to pick and choose when you do it. You can see that we're benefiting from it."
The Bears could have been doing this throughout their struggles earlier this season in a four-game losing streak.
Thursday's Bears report card reflects both Nagy's ability to let Trubisky finally use his legs, and inability to let him do it until now.
Montgomery didn't have to shoulder the whole load for a change. It looked like last year when the Bears were piling up big rushing yards without a running back even gaining 1,000 on the season. Montgomery had 86 yards on 20 carries, his second-best effort this season. Trubisky's 63 yards rushing was easily a season high. The only negative in the running game was how in effective it was in the fourth quarter when they were trying to run clock. The run blocking can still improve, but looked better for the third straight game and second straight with Cornelius Lucas playing right tackle due to Bobby Massie's injury. GRADE: B+
Trubisky's efficiency was reflected in his 115.5 passer rating and three touchdowns. All three TDs came from in the red zone. He wasn't taking big gambles and the Bears were able to achieve yards after the catch for a change. Possibly the best thing he did besides move launch points was find seven different receivers. Even Riley Ridley made his first pro reception. Their fourth and sixth tight ends, J.P. Holtz and Jesper Horsted, weren't left out this time and took pressure off the outside receivers with nine catches for 92 yards. Allen Robinson fought off extra attention from the Dallas secondary for five receptions, including a key 22-yarder by Trubisky on a rollout to set up Trubisky's TD run a play later. GRADE: A-
Dallas was not going to ignore Ezekiel Elliott in this one and he got it 19 times for 81 yards but the Bears limited the big play except for one 31-yarder. Nose Eddie Goldman, defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris and defensive tackle Bilal Nichols all remained stout against a strong line and prevented the blocking scheme from getting to a second level so that reserve inside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis could flourish as Roquan Smith's replacement. Pierre-Louis and Nick Kwiatkoski played like starters. GRADE: B+
The 334 yards Dak Prescott threw for looks like a disaster, but he needed 49 attempts to do it and going into the fourth quarter had only 110 yards passing. Then the Bears' inability to play prevent cover-2 and cover-3 zone surfaced again, this time when Kevin Toliver gave up some long passes downfield. The communication between Toliver and the safeties isn't quite what it is when Prince Amukamara is on the field. Kyle Fuller jumped a route early on a short throw by Prescott and it seemed to be enough to get Prescott to hold the ball longer all night. The pass rush wasn't overpowering, but Khalil Mack and Co. maintained their lanes to keep Prescott from getting outside the containment and it prevented big plays. GRADE: B+
The most complete blowout of special teams all year for the Bears. They averaged their own 40-yard line for a starting point without benefit of a turnover. Cordarrelle Patterson had a 32-yard return, then had Dallas' attention and caused Brett Maher to kick one out of bounds. Tarik Cohen averaged 8.3 yards on four punt returns. Eddy Pineiro made his field goal but Maher missed from Cody Parkey distance (42 yards). GRADE: A
Matt Nagy moved around the pocket and point for handoffs in the running game and let Trubisky be himself. He used I-formation with a fullback at times, as well. It was a classic case of coaching what you have, not what you wish you had. He probably realized a few games too late this had to be done this year. Chuck Pagano keeps coming up with ways to cover up for subs, or get them playing like starters. Next week he'll have one piece coming back long since lost in Akiem Hicks. GRADE: B
The worst thing about the win is it only increases the anguish over their four-game losing streak because if they played this way earlier they'd be in the midst of the playoff hunt instead of hoping for others to lose. GRADE: B+