Mitchell Trubisky's 'process' now has him on record pace

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Minnesota Vikings won't recognize the Mitchell Trubisky who made his NFL debut against them on Oct. 9, 2017.

Which is good news for the Chicago Bears when the teams meet Sunday night at Soldier Field with first place in the NFC North on the line.

Trubisky played relatively well in that 2017 game, but a fourth-quarter pick by Vikings safety Harrison Smith sealed the Bears’ fate in front of a national audience on a Monday night.

“I think I’ve grown a lot since that play,” Trubisky said Wednesday. “I’m not the same player, not even close. I’ve gotten better since that instance, and I’m excited for the opportunity this weekend.”

Trubisky enters the Vikings game as the reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 355 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions and also rushing for a touchdown in a 34-22 home victory over the Detroit Lions. It was Trubisky's first win over an NFC North team in seven tries.

“I’m very proud of Mitch,” Bears left tackle Charles Leno Jr. said.

There's a lot of which to be proud. Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick by the Bears in 2017, has 1,969 yards of total offense and 19 combined touchdowns over the past six games. The Lions game was his third this season with 300-plus passing yards and at least three passing touchdowns, something no other Bears quarterback has accomplished.

Trubisky is on pace to set single-season Bears records in passing yards (4,096) and passing touchdowns (33). The 24-year-old also is projected to finish with the club’s third-highest completion percentage (65.5) in a season and the second-most rushing yards by a quarterback (568), per ESPN Stats & Information research.

Moreover, the Bears are in first place and riding a three-game winning streak.

“He's seen more defenses now,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “Every game, every third down that he sees, every red zone defense that he sees, put it in a locker and we’ll come back to that next year, like, ‘Oh yeah, I remember that play, running that play against that defense.’ It’s all banking knowledge right now for him, and that’s important. He’s slowly improving, which I love. It’s not going to be an overnight thing; he had a good game and we want to continue to have those good games, but there’s a process to it.”

Trubisky's improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 is enormous.

After starting just one full year in college at North Carolina, Trubisky finished his rookie season with 2,193 passing yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions (77.5 quarterback rating) in 12 starts.

Nine games into the 2018 season, Trubisky's passer rating is 101.6, and he has 19 touchdown passes.

“This is how we envisioned the turnaround happening,” Trubisky said. “We got the right head guy in here. Coach Nagy is definitely leading the charge, and we just have the right guys in our locker room to change the culture around.

“The culture has definitely changed, and there's a better vibe around the city in how people view the Bears and how they see us. Hopefully, people are proud of what we're doing, because we're definitely proud of each other and the work we put in and what we're doing on the field. So we just want to keep getting better and keep that good thing going.”

Nagy, who was hired in the offseason to develop Trubisky, offered the young quarterback advice heading into Sunday’s pivotal rivalry game with Minnesota.

The Bears (6-3) hold a slim lead over Minnesota (5-3-1) in the division.

“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself,” Nagy said. “Don’t try to overdo things and make too many plays. Just stay within the system, trust your teammates. I mean it when I say this: There’s so many hours that go into these weekly games, and so many hours that went into the training-camp practices, meetings, OTAs, and so now you’re at a point where you’re there -- you’re at a point where the national TV is moving your games because they want to see you at night. OK, great. Enjoy it. That’s fun. But don’t change, no one change. Our whole team, don’t change. Keep doing what got us to where we’re at.”