LAKE FOREST – It’s been a while since he’s been in a game like this. A long while, in fact.
“Win or Go Home” hasn’t been something he’s faced since he was a senior at Mentor High School, when he was in the state playoffs in Ohio. To be specific, that last day was November 24, 2012 against Whitmer High School in the state semifinals.
Mitchell Trubisky, a highly touted prospect, saw his high school career end with a 62-34 loss in Mansfield. It came after three-straight playoff wins to reach that point, and after that, Trubisky was off to North Carolina. In his three years that he saw action with the Tar Heels, he played in pressure situations, but never in a “Win or Go Home” contest.
That changes this week for the quarterback, who will pilot the Bears’ offense against the Eagles in the NFC Wild Card game Sunday at Soldier Field. It will be the 27th start of his NFL career, and no doubt his biggest to date.
Yet there isn’t a feeling of pressure around the relatively even-keeled quarterback. Rather there is a sense of excitement for Chicago’s first NFL playoff game in eight years.
“It’s a lot of fun, it’s a lot of fun,” said Trubisky when asked about this being his first playoff game since his days at Mentor High School. “Everything is that much more interesting and it’s that much more intensified. You just go out there and enjoy every snap and every opportunity.”
Trubisky has helped to provide that shot for the Bears during his second season, where despite a few growing pains, has successfully led the Bears’ offense during a 12-4 season. He finished the regular season with 3,223 yards in 14 starts, completing 66.6 percent of his passes with 24 touchdowns compared to 12 interceptions. He finished with a 95.4 passer rating in his first season in Matt Nagy’s more wide-open offense.
Perhaps Trubisky got a taste of what he’ll be apart of Sunday against the Vikings in Week 17, considering that Minnesota was fighting for their playoff lives in front of a loud US Bank Stadium crowd. The quarterback calmly guided the Bears to a 24-10 victory, completing 18-of-26 passes for 163 yards.
“That seemed like a playoff-caliber game from what I’ve heard from the other people,” said Trubisky of last Sunday. “It was a very loud environment, it was a must-win for the other team, and we just came out there, we just blocked everything else out on the outside and we just wanted to go out there and compete.”
Now Trubisky and the offense will do so for real against the Eagles on Sunday. Philadelphia’s defense surrendered 366.2 yards per game through the air – 23rd in the NFL – but can bring the pressure with 44 sacks on the season (T-8th in the NFL).
“The best part about that is being out there with your guys. Back in high school it was about being out there with your best friends and now it’s the same thing except on the highest level of football,” said Trubisky. “We have a great locker room, guys in there I consider family, and we’re gonna go out and enjoy every opportunity because you never know when it can end.”
Just like it was in high school, and now in the NFL.