Mitchell Trubisky's preseason ends with Bears playing it safe -- until they don't

CHICAGO -- What had been a better-than-expected preseason for Chicago Bears rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky ended on a dull note.

Sort of.

The Bears' coaching staff (mostly) played it safe with the second overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft, who finished Thursday night’s preseason finale 2-of-5 for 10 yards.

That is, until late in the fourth quarter, when reserve quarterback Connor Shaw twice exited the game because of injuries -- the most serious being a hamstring -- forcing Trubisky back onto the field. Trubisky originally stopped playing in the second quarter.

Instead of having Trubisky simply run out the clock -- Cleveland led 25-0 -- the Bears surprisingly asked their future franchise quarterback to drop back and pass three times in the final 1:04 -- twice in the last 11 seconds. The Browns not only hit Trubisky on those final two pass attempts, they sacked him as he tried to move up in the pocket as time expired.

Why expose the high-profile rookie to such an unnecessary risk?

"Anytime you go out there, it's a risk, truth be told," Bears coach John Fox said. "Football is a rough game, no doubt. You don't want to see people get hurt, but it is part of the game. I don't know if we exposed Mitch a whole lot, but I can also say anytime you trot between those lines you are exposed."

Fox bristled at the suggestion the Bears could've managed the situation differently.

"I think it's fair to say it wasn't the first time he's been hit and it won't be the last," Fox said.

Trubisky, who quarterbacked the offense four series in the first half Thursday against the Browns, handed the ball off nine straight times to begin the game -- the Bears had three straight three-and-outs -- before he attempted a pass -- an incompletion to reserve running back Josh Rounds.

After Trubisky’s third series (again, all handoffs), the Soldier Field fans booed the home team, probably because most of those in attendance showed up only because Fox made the unexpected announcement on Tuesday that Trubisky, not Mark Sanchez, would start against Cleveland.

"I was just thinking to myself, that was the first time in my career I handed off nine straight times," Trubisky said with a smile. "Hopefully it's the last time."

Fox had told reporters last weekend that Sanchez (14 total snaps in the preseason) would play in the fourth exhibition game. The only action Sanchez saw occurred two hours prior to the game when he participated in an on-field workout reserved for the starters/key reserves who would be inactive. Fox said putting in Sanchez to replace Shaw was not an option.

Overall, Trubisky was 36-of-53 for 364 yards and three touchdowns in what has to be considered an ultra-successful preseason.

The next time Chicago fans will see their quarterback of the future will be if/when he replaces starter Mike Glennon or Sanchez -- presuming the Bears keep three quarterbacks when rosters are cut from 90 to 53 -- in the regular season.

Fox called Sanchez "a great teammate" to be around, but was non-committal about the veteran's chances of sticking around.

"Those are decisions we are going to have to make," Fox said, "but we have yet to make that decision."