CHICAGO – Around December, college students prep for some of the biggest moments of their academic school year. Oddly enough, the Bears’ quarterback facing the same challenge as they are, just in a football sense.
Final exams for many institutions of higher learning are taking place in the coming weeks before a new year arrives. They’ll determine not only an outcome at the moment but may also dictate what’s ahead.
That’s about what Mitchell Trubisky is going through right now with the Bears. After a disappointing first half of the season, a series of tests awaited him in the second half of the season that would dictate his fate now and in the future.
Like those students, December is the critical month for the quarterback as he tries to salvage the 2019 campaign while also cement his future with the franchise in 2020. Passing grades in the final four games against playoff contenders could be a positive on all fronts, but failures could leave his future with the franchise in doubt.
There have been calls all season for the team to bring in competition next season as Trubisky enters the fourth and final year of his contract next fall. In a franchise where finding consistency at the position is a generational problem, there is a lot for Ryan Pace to think about when it comes to the second-overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft.
On Thursday, following a few successful quizzes at the end of November, Trubisky passed a significant exam on Thursday night against the Cowboys.
It was as balanced of an effort as he’s had all season and perhaps his entire career from a rushing and passing perspective in a 31-24 win at Soldier Field. Trubisky was 23-of-31 for 244 yards, hitting seven different receivers with passes and having four of those plays going over 20 yards.
He finally got and took his opportunities to run, with his 63 yards on ten carries making for easily his best game on the ground in 2019. Not only did it open things up for him in the passing game, but he reached the endzone for just the second time on the ground all season long.
“It feels good. I think we just did a good job moving the chains, staying on the field. We were good on third down. It keeps the defense honest,” said Trubisky of the offense. “They were just zoning us out for the most part. Taking completions underneath, being patient, really being methodical as an offense.
“Offensive line did a great job of just giving me time. When nothing is there, pulling it down, getting what I can, playing smart and playing good football.”
What’s most impressive, however, maybe the way in which Trubisky responded to his biggest mistake of the game on the Bears’ first drive. Following the Cowboys’ lengthy scoring drive, the quarterback drove the Bears downfield only to miss Javon Wims completely on a throw towards the pylon that was intercepted by Jourdan Lewis.
But like the Lions game, in which he was intercepted on the first drive of the second half, the quarterback was undeterred. Trubisky marched the Bears downfield for scores on three-consecutive drives which gave the team an advantage they’d not let go.
Most impressive in that stretch were his efforts on third down – a sore spot for the Bears all season long. They finished the first half 4-of-5 in that category as the team corrected that issue on their way to tying their season-high in points.
“We’re staying away from those three-and-outs. You can finally get into a rhythm. For all of us, whether it’s play calls, whether its players making plays and getting first downs, but you’re able to get in that rhythm,” said Nagy of the Trubisky-led offense. “That’s what’s big. Then you win. We had one time tonight where we got behind the sticks. We recovered from it, got a first down. Our players are making plays.”
That includes Trubisky, who still has three major exams left in this season to help set the course of his future as the team’s quarterback. The Packers, Chiefs, and Vikings are all in the thick of playoff races, and if the Bears hope to be there, they’ll likely have to win them all.
As he has during a recent strong stretch of play, one in which he’s thrown for 1,223 yards and 11 touchdowns compared to five interceptions, the quarterback insists there is more to give in what he hopes is a late postseason push.
“No, we’re almost there. We got to keep getting better,” said Trubisky when asked if Thursday was a “breakthrough” for the offense. “Like at the end of the game I felt like we didn’t close it out as an offense, stay on the field, finish the game. I thought defense played outstanding. We had a great game with field position. So special teams had a huge part in that.
“Then we just took advantage of our opportunities, played smart on offense, went down and scored points.”
While scoring an impressive grade to start his own finals month.