Practice how you play: Why Bears knew Mitch Trubisky, offense would break out vs. Bucs


QUARTERBACKS: A+

You already know what Trubisky did, but here’s another part of what made his six-touchdown, 354-yard day so impressive: He missed a few throws early, and didn’t let those snowball. He threw wide to Javon Wims and then took a sack on the Bears’ second possession…then came back with four consecutive touchdown drives of 68 or more yards. In a more narrow sense: He missed Taylor Gabriel on a deep ball early in the second quarter, then on the next play came back and hit Gabriel for a 33-yard gain. 

What quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone pointed to, though, wasn’t the highlight-reel completions Trubisky made when asked what stood out to him. It was that Trubisky drew the Buccaneers offsides three times by varying his cadence. Those little things that Trubisky did better, in addition to connecting on those deep throws, showed Ragone that the second-year quarterback is growing. 

RUNNING BACKS: A+

Tarik Cohen had 13 carries for 53 yards and was targeted eight times, catching seven, for 121 with a touchdown. This was a breakout game for the diminutive second-year player in Nagy’s offense, in that he didn’t just line up all over the field but was the preferred option on inside zone runs instead of Jordan Howard (12 carries, 25 yards). That kind of run game usage may not necessarily be a sign of things to come, but what Cohen was able to do all over the field offered a tantalizing look into what this Bears offense can do this season. 

WIDE RECEIVERS: A+

Taylor Gabriel continued his strong start to the season, catching all seven of his targets for 104 yards with a pair of three-yard touchdowns. He made an excellent diving catch on a deep ball and was consistently open throughout the game. Allen Robinson caught his first touchdown in a Bears uniform on that picture-perfect throw from Trubisky, while Josh Bellamy slipped open on a well-designed play for a 20-yard score. And Kevin White, while he didn’t register a target, absolutely leveled Buccaneers safety Justin Evans while blocking on a screen pass to Cohen. 

TIGHT ENDS: A+

Trey Burton’s two receptions went for 39 and 47 yards, with the 39-yarder opening the scoring. His downfield ability showed up in a big way against an overmatched Tampa Bay defense. Every unit gets an A+ on what was the Bears’ best offensive game in recent memory. 

OFFENSIVE LINE: A+

Mitch Trubisky was barely pressured by a previously-menacing Tampa Bay pass rush of Jason Pierre-Paul, Gerald McCoy and Vinny Curry. Pierre-Paul hit home when the pocket collapsed a bit and Trubisky ran into a sack, but that was on the second drive of the game, and from there on out Trubisky had loads of time to go through his progressions and make clear-headed decisions. The James Daniels-Eric Kush rotation worked well, too. While every unit got an A+, maybe the offensive line should’ve got an A++ for the work it put in. 

DEFENSIVE LINE: A+

Before Akiem Hicks was ejected for making contact with an official, he absolutely terrorized Bucs right guard Caleb Benenoch, beating him for an eight-yard sack and also notching a tackle for a loss. After he exited the game, Bilal Nichols made some huge plays — a sack and two tackles for a loss — while Jonathan Bullard notched a TFL and Roy Robertson-Harris contributed on a sack. And while Tampa Bay was never going to be able to rely on the run after going down by so many points so early, the Bears did limit Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber to 53 yards on 17 carries.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: A+

Another day, another strip-sack for Khalil Mack, who became the first player since Robert Mathis in 2005 to have four consecutive games with a strip-sack. Mack, too, was able to grab Jameis Winston’s arm to force a lofted, wobbling pass that was picked off by Danny Trevathan. Aaron Lynch picked off a pass toward the end of the game and Leonard Floyd had another good game in run support, and also had a nice pass break-up early in the second quarter. 

INSIDE LINEBACKERS: A+

There was a blemish here when Trevathan slipped and allowed a window for DeSean Jackson to get bigger, leading to a 48-yard gain. But otherwise, this group was solid, with Trevathan picking off that pass and breaking up another while Roquan Smith registered four tackles. 

DEFENSIVE BACKS: A+

Kevin Toliver was only beat once downfield (by Jackson, in the second quarter), but otherwise did well to keep Tampa Bay’s explosive receivers in front of him, leading to the undrafted rookie notching a team-high seven tackles. Toliver, per Pro Football Focus, limited Mike Evans to three catches on five targets for only 23 yards, which counts as a win. Kyle Fuller was targeted four times and only allowed 15 yards. Eddie Jackson continued his surge with another interception, too. 

SPECIAL TEAMS: A+

Cody Parkey connected from 50 and 46 yards, while Tampa Bay’s average starting field position was the 24-yard line thanks to Parkey having seven touchbacks. 

COACHING: A+

Credit Nagy with some excellent concepts to scheme his pass-catchers open and confuse a depleted, sub-par Buccaneers defense all afternoon. Gabriel, in particular, pointed to Nagy’s schemes as to why Bears receivers were frequently catching the ball with oceans of open field around them. 

What Sunday amounted to was a glimpse at just how good Nagy’s offense can be when it’s properly implemented, and the players within it execute its concepts well. A game like this was why the Bears hired Nagy; he’ll have to prove after the bye week that it wasn’t just a one-time thing. 



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