The first half of Mitch Trubisky’s first NFL playoff game was unimpressive to say the least – 13-of-23 passing for 105 yards and a 68.2 passer rating.
But his second half demonstrated why coach Matt Nagy and Trubisky’s teammates believe he’s the right guy to lead them forward after a turnaround season. After halftime, Trubisky compiled a 114.2 passer rating, completing 13 of 20 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown. Trailing 16-15 with 56 seconds to play, he drove the Bears 33 yards and into field goal position, only to see Cody Parkey’s 43-yard attempt miss.
“Just a guy that continued to make plays,” Nagy said of Trubisky’s fourth quarter, which included the Bears’ only touchdown, a 22-yard pass to Allen Robinson. “He’s done it all year long. He’s made plays when he’s had to.
“We looked at each other with under a minute to go, and we knew we were going to move the ball and go down there and have an opportunity, and he did that. He looked at me and he gave me a smile, and I just told him, ‘This is where the story begins.’ He did a great job.”
Of the Bears’ top five receivers this year, only running back Tarik Cohen had ever caught a pass from Trubisky in a regular-season game before the 2018 opener. Developing a rapport with a new cast of pass-catchers was only one of the obstacles the second-year quarterback had to overcome. It also was his first year in a new offense, with a new coordinator and a new head coach and play-caller.
“Not one person truly knows how far that kid has come this year [other] than me,” Nagy said. “We’re lucky to have him. I’m looking forward to the future because the city of Chicago is lucky to have that kid at quarterback.”
Despite all the changes, Trubisky improved his passer rating from 77.5 as a rookie to 95.4 this year. His completion percentage increased from 59.4 to 66.6, and he took seven fewer sacks with throwing 104 more passes. He also was the team’s third-leading rusher with 421 yards, averaging 6.2 yards an attempt.
His older teammates are behind him, ready to follow where he takes them, which isn’t an easy accomplishment, considering Trubisky is only 24, one of the youngest players on the roster.
“He’s a leader, and he’s a heck of a football player,” said seven-year veteran guard Kyle Long, who was impressed by Trubisky’s poise on the final drive. “He’s the guy you want in your huddle in that situation. The Eagles are a good pass-rushing unit, (but) we have guys who can perform under pressure, and we have a quarterback that can get us down the field.”
While Trubisky can be rah-rah when necessary, that’s not what wins him points with teammates.
“You see it with a guy like (Seahawks quarterback) Russell Wilson, too,” Long said. “If we’ve got the ball, and we’ve got a chance to win, I know we’re going to go down the field and handle our business, and that starts with No. 10.
“He’s so poised; he’s so prepared, and he’s such a laid-back, cool guy. He’s easy to be around, and he commands your respect – not through his words or anything, but with the way that he carries himself and his actions.”
Sunday’s second half was one of Trubisky’s better performances, although he had six games during the regular season with passer ratings higher than 100. That he rose to the occasion at crunch time in his first playoff game wasn’t lost on his teammates.
“Down the stretch [it was impressive], just seeing how he stayed calm, how he stayed poised,” said Robinson, whose 143 receiving yards were the most by a Bears player in a postseason game. “He didn’t get overwhelmed at any point in time. He made some big throws down the stretch. That says a lot for a second-year guy, just a true testament to everything he’s learned.”
Nagy has seen enough to know he wants to hitch the Bears’ offensive wagon to Trubisky for the foreseeable future.
“He did everything that we asked him to do,” Nagy said. “I know this: I want him on my side.”