And now it gets real.”
That was the message from Matt Nagy after thoroughly kicking the butt of a team that fully expected to be contending for the Super Bowl this season. The Bears didn’t just knock the Vikings out of the playoffs. They offered a glimpse of how talented they actually are.
It’s been convenient to say the Vikings weren’t good or that they lost before the game even started. But that ignores the primary storyline heading into the game: the Vikings were “fixed.” They fired Flip and found Stefanski! Their offense had been corrected and they were the team nobody wanted to play.
Then the Bears broke them…again.
The Bears didn’t do anything flashy. The offensive game plan was vanilla. They did what they do defensively. They won that game simply because they were too good to lose it. They were that much better than a team that had a Super Bowl-worthy roster.
The defense is what it is at this point. They’ve had a few letdowns, but we’re at a point where letdowns no longer exist. When this defense is motivated, they are fast, physical and smart. They deserve all the praise they are receiving.
But the offense is going to determine how far the Bears can go. If the offense can play like they did on Sunday the Bears won’t lose in these playoffs. Minnesota had one of the five best defenses in the league, while being historically great on third down. Mitch Trubisky picked them apart:
- Mitch was was 8-for-10 for 136 yards on third downs.
- Mitch picked up six first downs through the air.
- Mitch had completions of 22, 41, 12 and 16 yards on third down, along with a 25-yard gain that was called back because of a weak penalty.
- On the game-clinching drive, Mitch ran for 12 yards on a third-and-five before hitting Wims for 16 on third-and-six, Burton for nine on third-and-six and Wims for nine on third-and-seven.
Mitch did all of that without his top three receivers for much of the game and against the best third down defense in the league – which has been even more stingy at home. The overall stat line didn’t look great for Trubisky, but great quarterbacks are defined by what they do in big situations.
But, as Nagy said, now it gets real for Trubisky.
Recent history has shown us that young quarterbacks can play well in the playoffs, despite the 2-9 win-loss record for first or second-year quarterbacks since 2012. While Trubisky has struggled some in the spotlight — one could argue his three worst games have come in primetime — Sunday’s performance in a hostile environment was a strong indication that he can play well when the pressure is on.
The running game has certainly helped, but if the young Bears QB can keep playing the way he has the last three weeks and the defense continues to do what we’ve come to expect, this special season is going to have a special ending.