World’s Best Preview: Will Nagy Make Trubisky Play Quarterback?
GREEN BAY, Wis. – In the cramped but victorious locker room at Soldier Field on the night of Sept. 5, Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams explained the defensive game plan.
“We wanted to make Mitch play quarterback,” Williams said of Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
Mission accomplished. Green Bay’s defense smothered the Bears throughout the night. In reality, though, Bears coach Matt Nagy was just as responsible for making Trubisky play quarterback. Of Chicago’s 71 offensive snaps, it didn’t face Green Bay’s base 3-4 defense on even one. Safety Raven Greene played 55 snaps at linebacker. The Bears could have run the ball; Nagy just didn’t do it.
The results were disastrous for the Bears, who lost 10-3. There were just a dozen handoffs to running backs, including only three in the second half. Trubisky was terrible. He was sacked five times, threw a critical end-zone interception to Adrian Amos and averaged 4.7 yards per dropback.
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Speaking to reporters in Chicago on Thursday ahead of Sunday’s rematch at Lambeau Field, offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said his unit was “shell-shocked” after the first couple series.
“I just feel like we’re kind of in a rhythm now,” Trubisky told reporters on Wednesday. “We’re a different team. There were some things that we had to go through in the first game and the beginning of the season that just didn’t go our way, and there’s things we definitely learned from as an offense. I just feel like we have a new-found identity of what we want to do and everybody is really locked into what they have to do within their job description on the offense.”
It took a long time – probably too long, with the Bears (7-6) on the brink of elimination – to find that identity. Trubisky was mediocre or worse for much of the season. On Nov. 17, he was pulled from the lineup – either due to ineffective play or a hip injury – in a 17-7 loss at the Rams. The Bears were 4-6 and there were serious questions revolving around the future of Trubisky, the second overall pick of the 2017 draft. However, the Bears have won three in a row and Trubisky was tremendous the past two weeks against Detroit and Dallas.
In a 24-20 win at the Lions, he completed 76.3 percent of his passes for 338 yards with three touchdown passes and a 118.1 passer rating. In a 31-24 victory last week over the Cowboys, he completed 74.2 percent for 244 yards with three touchdown passes (plus one touchdown run) and a 115.5 rating. In a career spanning 38 games, those games rank sixth and seventh in completion percentage, tied for second in touchdowns, and sixth and ninth in rating.
“I’m really proud of him,” Nagy said in his conference call. “In this game, it can be challenging, it can be tough. There’s a lot of highs and lows, especially at that position, as all these quarterbacks know. They put everything on you in regards to how you win or lose and that’s how you’re valued. We had some struggles but he’s been mentally strong. That’s been the biggest takeaways of all this. He’s done a good job of battling through some of the lows that we’ve had as an offense and taken it head-on and we’re getting better, so that’s good.”
Of course, the question is whether Trubisky can replicate that success against better defenses. The Lions rank 27th in opponent passer rating (100.5) and 28th in sacks (25); the Cowboys are 25th in opponent completion percentage overall (65.2) and 30th in opponent passer rating the last five games (106.4). Detroit and Dallas are tied with a league-low five interceptions. Green Bay is 11th in opponent passer rating (86.8), 10th in completion percentage (62.2) and third in interceptions (13).
Amos, who spent the 2017 and 2018 seasons with Trubisky, knows his former teammate can be dangerous if he gets rolling.
“It’s pretty hard to have confidence if you’re not making too many plays,” Amos said. “Once you start making plays, that builds that confidence and he’s been doing what he does best – he’s great when he can move around, when he’s mobile and he can run. He’s a great runner of the football. Once he gets in rhythm and plays with confidence, he’s a good quarterback.”