CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears’ first three games were defined by defense. Sparked by the monster addition of Khalil Mack, it appeared that if Chicago was going to have any success this season, it would be thanks to a havoc-wreaking D.
But Sunday’s 48-10 throttling of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers marked a coming-out party for second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The Bears now head into their bye week at 3-1, cautiously optimistic their offense can be just as dynamic.
"Hopefully this is something I can look back on and say, ‘This is where it all started,’" Trubisky said.
Trubisky inherited the starting role in Week 5 of last season, and since then has put up pedestrian numbers -- even after coach Matt Nagy was hired in January with the intention of jump-starting Trubisky's career. But on Sunday, Trubisky was spectacular. He put up career highs in yards (354) and touchdown passes (six). Prior to Sunday, Trubisky had thrown multiple touchdowns in a game just once -- two in a Week 2 win over Seattle this season.
Against Tampa Bay, Trubisky threw touchdowns to five different receivers. The game was also a showcase for Tarik Cohen. The shifty do-everything back has the potential to be a featured part of the offense, and flexed that for the first time this season with 53 rushing and 121 receiving yards (averaging 17.3 yards per reception).
The game plan was devised for success, including matchups that gave Trubisky designed reads and open throwing windows. The offense wasn’t simplified -- nor did it feature too many different wrinkles than in Weeks 1-3. The difference in Week 4? Trubisky threw the ball with better timing, and appeared much quicker with his eyes. Every play just seemed to click. The Bears averaged 10 yards per play on first down and second down.
"It’s real special to see," Mack said. "[Trubisky] was airing it out. Those guys on the receiving end were catching everything."
The only play that stood out as unique was the fifth touchdown, when backup Chase Daniel lined up in the shotgun next to Trubisky for a two-quarterback look. Trubisky flipped the ball to receiver Taylor Gabriel, in motion, who ran it into the end zone. Nagy said the play was called "Willy Wonka." Even still, Nagy gushed that the team "had a lot leftover on that call sheet, even with the production that we had."
Trubisky and Nagy credited a good week of practice; Nagy said Friday’s red zone session "might have been the best practice that we had since we’ve been together."
Of course, it helps that Trubisky’s offensive line played a sound game. The Tampa Bay defense that Chicago shredded was not a vaunted bunch (the Buccaneers entered the game ranked 31st in the league, allowing 433.3 yards per game). The Buccaneers also didn’t get after Trubisky’s sore spot: pressure. In the first half, when Trubisky did most of his damage with five touchdowns, Tampa Bay dialed zero blitzes and pressured him only three times.
Caveats aside, confidence was oozing from the Chicago locker room.
"I have been here a while and I have never been a part of a win like this," veteran offensive lineman Kyle Long said. "It feels really good to sit here with a smile on my face. For the last five, six years I’ve been saying, ‘We’re getting better, we’re getting better, we’re young. We’re going to get there.’ And you could see it. But now you guys get to see what I’m seeing. It feels good. The secret is out."
Trubisky remained level-headed after the win, never straying from his talking points, which included crediting his teammates and reiterating it is never his intention to break records (Trubisky was the first Bears quarterback to throw for five touchdowns since Johnny Lujack in 1949).
"It’s very humbling because you know the history of the Bears and how many great players have come through this organization," he said, of seeing the achievement highlighted on the video board. "So for me, just trying to create your own legacy, and then try to make a path."
He then went on to praise his teammates again.
The Bears enter their bye week on a high, though tight end Trey Burton -- a free-agent acquisition who last played with the Philadelphia Eagles -- cautioned against the team's getting ahead of itself.
"It’s the worst possible time to have a bye week," Burton said. "Two years ago in Philly, we were 3-1 going into the bye, beating teams up and lost seven out of nine off the bye week. We have a lot of veteran guys who understand the importance of starting fast when we come back. I wish we didn’t have a bye week right now."