When the Bears needed life Sunday, second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky stepped in.
The strengths of the team were flailing. The defense was mid-collapse. The coach made numerous bone-headed calls. Throughout the third and early fourth quarters the Packers had all the momentum. They were going to steal the game. Everyone knew it.
After a strange fake punt allowed the Packers to drive 50 yards for a touchdown and the game-tying two-point conversion, the Bears looked dead. They got the ball back.
First down: incomplete to Burton.
Second down: incomplete to Burton.
Third down: Trubisky takes off for 14.
Later in the drive, Trubisky made a sharp throw to Gabriel for 14 on second-and-13. Then he hit Adam Shaheen for 16 yards on second-and-eight after scrambling to his left.
Then Matt Nagy took the ball out of his hands, calling a Wildcat run in which Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard botched the exchange on third-and-one and the Packers recovered.
That was supposed to be the time Aaron Rodgers took control of the game. Everyone with a working knowledge of the game of football expected it.
This time, Nagy let him finish what he started.
Pass to Gabriel for eight on third-and-six.
Two penalties and another pass to Burton and they were in the red zone.
Two plays later, the quarterback looked comfortable and confident as he scanned the field before delivering a dart to Burton in the left corner of the end zone.
They were back in control because their quarterback was in control.
This was a pivotal game for the Bears quarterback. He was coming off of a terrible performance against the Rams. He looked shaken and could not make a throw to save his life. With the longtime division bullies coming to town, the Bears needed Mitch to play well. Not just to win the division, but to instill confidence in what they are doing long-term.
The defense did its part and by the end of the game, Rodgers had enough. When Leonard Floyd ripped him to the ground he went directly to the bench, not even checking to see if Joe Philbin wanted to take another shot at the end zone on third down.
— Andrew Dannehy (@adannehy) December 17, 2018
This is a defensive team, but games like this from Trubisky are why there is hope. Defense can’t win championships in the modern NFL. Teams need to score points. And when Mitch plays how he played Sunday, points are coming.
For one week the overthrows into tight coverage stopped. Trubisky not only wasn’t intercepted, he wasn’t really close to being picked. He was patient and used his legs as an extra weapon instead of a crutch. If he can play like that for the rest of the season, the Bears are going to be tough to beat.
And if he can play like that for the next decade, the Bears are going to be sitting on top of the division more often than not.