It's been a long time coming but Bears coach Matt Nagy is beginning to see the confidence and ability he saw quarterback Mitchell Trubisky display over the final three regular-season games of 2018, when he led the Bears into the playoffs.
The Bears have to hope the trend continues long enough to allow Trubisky to compete against division-leading teams or their faint playoff hopes are finished.
In winning against the Detroit Lions and New York Giants, Trubisky's passing has been good enough to keep alive the Bears' dwindling playoff hopes heading into Thursday night's game with Dallas in a battle of 6-6 teams. Now the stretch run is against four good teams.
"It feels good," Trubisky said after Sunday's practice. "You want to duplicate that feeling and then you forget about it and move on and are even hungrier for this week."
Although the Bears have won three out of four, the big difference in Trubisky's play didn't become obvious until the second half of the game against Detroit on Thanksgiving. He connected on 12 of 14 for 192 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception in the second half.
"He's in a good mode right now," Nagy said. "I really like where he’s at, his mentality. It’s been kind of a reset where we’re not happy or getting complacent, because of the last couple weeks being better.
"Let’s keep growing. It’s not where we want to be. We had a better day on offense. We still had our times where we could get better and improve, but let’s not be satisfied with where we’re at."
Trubisky had a passer rating of 109.7 in last year's final three games with wins over Green Bay, San Francisco and Minnesota.
Not all of this is on Trubisky. Some of it is play calling and knowing what Trubisky does well. Nagy said it has taken this long for him to find the plays that let Trubisky establish a rhythm as a passer.
"You feel like at that point last year you were getting into a rhythm and figuring how plays that he liked, plays that he felt comfortable with," Nagy said. "You take that into this year and those plays are still there. We're still running a lot of the same stuff. And there's different whys behind some of the success, some of the failures with those plays.
" But I think now, even though it's later in the season, we're starting to figure out that 'identity' that we like. Hopefully we can continue that."
Wide receiver Anthony Miller says Trubisky's ability to keep an even keel makes all the difference in his play.
"He keeps the same confidence whether we're doing good or bad," Miller said. "He keeps his teammates up. He's a real leader. I'm just proud of him, what he's been doing these past few weeks."
To Trubisky, the key has been first down and it will be again against Dallas. He completed 17 of 19 on first down against Detroit, the league's 30th-ranked defense.
Trying to do it against a Dallas defense ranked seventh against the pass and seventh at preventing third-down conversions promises to be more difficult.
"We play a lot of teams, especially this week, that are good on third down, so in order to be in third down and manageable, you've gotta be good on first and second down," Trubisky said. "We usually know a trend with this offense is if we're good on first down, it really opens up our playbook on second down.
"You can take a shot, you can run it again, pick up the first."