Haugh: Bears, Trubisky Silencing Critics

The Bears earned more trust after a thorough dispatching of the Lions.

David Haugh
November 11, 2018 - 5:57 pm
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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- In the ultimate I-told-you-so moment Sunday at Soldier Field, given the chance to chastise the critics who created so much consternation around his 21st start as the Bears quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky passed.

And like so many other times in a 34-22 laugher over the Lions that wasn’t as close as the score suggested, Trubisky’s passing showed maturity that reflected well on the emerging leader of a playoff contender.

"Nothing," Trubisky answered when asked what he had to say to those who criticized him last week. "I don’t listen to it. I don’t hear it, so I don’t say anything. I don’t care one bit ... I know there’s been talk and noise. I didn’t hear it directly, but I heard my teammates having my back and that’s the only thing I care about, and that what means the world to me."

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The postgame restraint by Trubisky provided the last example of good judgment on a brisk autumn day defined by it for him. Of all the noise, the words of longtime NFL analyst and former executive Michael Lombardi echoed loudest. But days after Lombardi claimed "you couldn’t get me to buy Mitchell Trubisky if you had him on a discount rack at Filene’s Basement," Trubisky played like a quarterback who pays someone to shop for his suits. There will be no debate this week, locally or nationally: Trubisky was tremendous.

Buoyant Bears coach Matt Nagy called it Trubisky’s best game of the season, one that revealed his "laser focus." No argument here.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but he’s playing his tail off right now," Nagy said. "He played confident, and I like that."

Before Sunday, the last time the Bears won a game in the NFC North, the Cubs had yet to win the 2016 World Series. It was a 20-10 victory over the Vikings on Oct. 31, 2016 – 10 division losses ago. This Bears team bears no resemblance to that one. This team looks legitimate and worth trusting as its schedule toughens. All three phases for the Bears played well enough at times that Nagy could hardly contain himself after the Bears’ third straight victory.

"I’m going to be excited to watch the tape," Nagy said.

Led by Mitchell Trubisky, Bears offense showcasing growing trust, chemistry

Nagy will see outstanding efforts from the three positions that every legitimate NFL playoff team requires: their franchise quarterback, No. 1 receiver and elite pass rusher. For the first time since Sept. 30 against the Buccaneers, the Bears’ most important trio – Trubisky, Allen Robinson and Khalil Mack – took the field healthy at the same time.

Start with Trubisky, who completed 12 of his first 13 passes – and the one that fell incomplete, which barely fell through Taylor Gabriel’s fingertips in the end zone, might have been the most impressive pass he threw all game. In the first quarter, Trubisky looked as sharp as he has as a pro, demonstrating accuracy and velocity and distributing the ball to whatever receiver Nagy schemed open. Trubisky put the ball in small windows and used his eyes effectively to freeze safeties, important signs of progress even if he was facing the third-worst defense in the league. He bought time with his feet and even threw in a rushing touchdown on a quarterback draw that offered the Vikings something else to consider. The designed run gave the Bears a 26-0 lead after which everybody – including many in a polite crowd of 57,282 – exhaled.

"We were just out there having fun today," Trubisky said.

Trubisky's eye-popping numbers – 23-of-30 for 355 yards, three touchdowns and a passer rating of 148.6 – should provide a tinge of regret for his growing legion of critics. The extreme range of opinions on Trubisky will continue in a society in which polarization has become popular, but the truth falls somewhere in the middle for a quarterback with 21 NFL starts. Nagy, the evaluator who matters most, told Trubisky to worry only about the numbers on the scoreboard. That sounds appropriate for a Bears team that has exceeded its 2017 victory total with seven games remaining.

Robinson enjoyed a No. 1 receiver kind of day, scoring two touchdowns and scaring every defensive coordinator left on the Bears' schedule. He finished with six catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns, pleasing his fantasy football owners as much as Nagy. On Robinson’s 36-yard touchdown reception, his catch was as good as the throw after he shook Lions cornerback DeShawn Shead at the line of scrimmage to create all the separation Trubisky needed to thread the needle. On the 26-yard score in the third quarter, Robinson quickly gained inside position on Lions cornerback Nevin Lawson, and Trubisky hit No. 12 in stride with a quick slant.

"He’s so hard to cover one-on-one," Trubisky said.

The same still goes for Mack, who returned to resemble the player he was in September, before a sprained ankle against the Dolphins on Oct. 14 ruined the past month. Mack recorded two sacks, celebrating after the first one by playing the air guitar. A player as menacing as Mack can march to whatever beat he chooses. Mack’s second sack came courtesy of coverage, the least the Bears defensive backs could do after he made their jobs much easier since arriving Sept. 1 in the NFL trade of the year.

The Bears sacked quarterback Matthew Stafford six times and forced three turnovers, limiting the Lions to just 110 total yards in the decisive first half.

"The offense has something real nice going and our defense is playing at a high level," defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said. "Where can we go?"

For the Bears (6-3) to keep ascending like a playoff team, they should invite kicking competition to challenge Cody Parkey, who found a way to hit goalposts on four missed kicks, rattling the uprights like a wind chime. He missed field goals from 41 and 34 yards and two extra points. For the Lions, the goalpost apparatus did more to keep points off the scoreboard than their secondary.

The Bears can’t tolerate such inconsistency as the stakes increase, even if they guaranteed Parkey $9 million when signing him to a free-agent contract. The eight missing points created more suspense than necessary – and even a smattering of boos. In a rout in which the running game presented the Bears’ only other concern, Parkey’s problems threatened to dampen an otherwise dominant overall performance.

Yet teammates and especially Nagy unconditionally supported Parkey, answering emphatically when asked if it was "likely or unlikely the Bears would try out kickers."

"There’s zero chance of that," said Nagy, who also ruled out Parkey practicing more at Soldier Field. "It’s pretty windy at Halas Hall too. He just has to keep kicking away and staying positive. This is part of the job."

For this Bears team to get where it's capable of going behind its improving young quarterback, Parkey needs to do his job much better.

David Haugh is the co-host of the Mully & Haugh Show on 670 The Score weekdays from 5-9 a.m. Listen to the show here. You can follow him on Twitter @DavidHaugh and email him at david.haugh@entercom.com.​​​​​​