The Overlooked Part of Mitch Trubisky’s Debut Fans Must See

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mitch trubisky backup
Credit: Chicago Tribune

Chicago Bears fans were in such a fervor on Thursday night. Rightfully so. The long-awaited Mitch Trubisky debut was everything they could’ve hoped for and more. He completed his first 10 passes, directed three-straight scoring drives and didn’t turn the ball over once. If that weren’t enough he also rushed for over 30 yards.

In those 32 minutes of almost pure joy, it was easy to get caught up in the moment and not see the little things. The cliche (but true) saying is that the devil is in the details. People talk about the athleticism, the poise, the command and the accuracy. One thing that was almost casually glossed over was the execution.

Specifically the red zone execution.

One of the reasons the Bears couldn’t win games last season was their inability to punch the ball in the end zone when they got inside the 20. They ranked 23rd in the NFL, managing to score a touchdown just 51.02% of the time. The year before it was even worse at 48.98%. This is a problem that has dogged them for the entirety of the Jay Cutler era.

Mitch Trubisky debut showcased his ability in tight spaces

There was only one season in which he was the primary starter where the team converted 60% or more of their red zone trips into touchdowns. That was 2014. They also did it in 2013 but that was largely thanks to Josh McCown. Cutler was never good in the red zone. Why? It requires quick timing and precise accuracy. He had neither. At least not consistently.

On Thursday night at Soldier Field, Trubisky converted his first two drives into red zone touchdowns. Both of them largely a result of his execution and passing.

In the first trip it became easy to see he wasn’t afraid to work the horizontal game. He showed enough arm strength to throw an out to Adam Shaheen that set the Bears up at the five. After a run got them to the two, Trubisky swung a bootleg to the left and hit Victor Cruz for the first touchdown. It looked routine, as it often can when executed properly.

On the next drive it boiled down to one throw but it was the critical one. Chicago worked their way to the 10-yard line primarily on the ground. Trubisky then takes the snap. As he hits his back step he fires a pass to the left on a slant to receiver Rueben Randle. The ball is placed up to where only Randle can get it but still leads him towards the end zone. Note there were three Broncos in the vicinity so the ball had to be on the mark. Randle makes the catch and sets up shop inside the one. Chicago scored on the next play.

Should’ve been a third

All people remember about the third scoring drive was it ended in a field goal. What they don’t realize is it may have been the best of Trubisky’s three trips in terms of showcasing his value. Upon further review there was no denying the simple fact.

It should’ve been a third-straight touchdown.

First came the absolutely gorgeous throw on the run to Tanner Gentry. Trubisky runs the bootleg to his right off play action. With pressure nearing he fires the pass right over the head of one Broncos defender into Gentry’s hands who’s got another in his hip pocket. On the next one he throws another daring out to Cruz to inch closer.

After a penalty pushed them back out to the seven-yard line, Trubisky took the shotgun snap and fired a pass to the end zone. Review shows it was tight end Daniel Brown who was the target. The ball passed through his hands and hit the turf. It was a tough play but NFL logic says it should’ve been caught.

Drops were a common theme all night. Something the team is certain to focus on moving forward. Nonetheless it was a proper showcase of just how dangerous Trubisky can be for this offense.

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Erik Lambert
Brainwashed by the sports culture as a wee lad, Erik was educated to be a writer at the prestigious Columbia College. He has spent the past 10 years covering the Bears.