Week 2 NFL QB awards: Trubisky's drastic step backward

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You now have my permission to panic over Mitchell Trubisky. Yes, he threw the critical pass that set up the Bears' 16-14 victory Sunday over the Broncos. But until then, his performance -- and the Bears' game-long coddling of him -- was alarming for a quarterback approaching his 30th NFL start.

It might be unfair to compare Trubisky to Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, both of whom the Bears passed over to draft him No. 2 overall in 2017. They are different players in different systems. But it is more than fair to expect him to be a much better passer than he is now, and that revelation provides a perfect spot to jump into our Week 2 Quarterback Awards, a weekly distribution of QB accolades using unique data culled from ESPN Stats & Information and NFL Next Gen Stats.

Each Tuesday, we'll highlight the best and worst QB performances from the NFL weekend and break down what made each quarterback perform at either extreme. Let's start this week's edition with Trubisky.

Most concerning QB: Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears

In 2017, the Bears surrendered five draft picks to move up and select Trubisky at No. 2 overall, the kind of bounty reserved for players with transcendent potential. What we've seen since, however, is a franchise falling over itself to make the game as easy as it can for him.

That trend was on extreme display Sunday in Denver, where 33.3% of Trubisky's attempts didn't make it past the line of scrimmage. That was the fourth-highest percentage in Week 2. NFL Next Gen Stats classified a league-high 40.7% of his targets as "wide open," meaning there was no defender within 5 yards. And he had two of the top-six easiest incompletions for the week, as determined by the NFL Next Gen Stats model, including this attempted third-down dump-off to tight end Trey Burton in the fourth quarter, shown by NFL Next Gen Stats animation:

Only eight of his 27 attempts traveled more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, and the only one Trubisky completed was the 25-yard pass to receiver Allen Robinson that set up Eddy Pineiro's 53-yard game-winning field goal.

Need further evidence? Look at how coach Matt Nagy called plays in the second half Sunday.

Late in the third quarter, as they tried to pad a 6-3 lead, the Bears ran on all nine plays of an 80-yard drive that resulted in David Montgomery's 1-yard scoring run. (Trubisky's incomplete pass on third-and-goal was wiped out by penalty.) And as the Bears tried to seal the game with 3:45 to play, Trubisky threw a 3-yard pass to Robinson on third-and-8.

To be fair, the Bears have played against two of the NFL's better defenses this season in the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers. That fact provides context for some of his performance, but it doesn't account for the training wheels the Bears have yet to remove. The good news is there shouldn't be any gray area after the Bears' Week 3 Monday Night Football game against the Washington Redskins, who have the NFL's second-worst passing defense by Total QBR (89.0). If Trubisky isn't playing big-boy football by then, it'll be time to ask when -- or if -- it's going to happen.

Safety First Award: Teddy Bridgewater, New Orleans Saints

Simply starting a meaningful game is an incredible accomplishment for Bridgewater, who dislocated his left knee and tore multiple ligaments while with the Minnesota Vikings in 2016. When the Vikings researched outcomes for every elite athlete they could find with a similar injury -- 24 in all -- they found that 50% never made it back. And of the 12 who did, all needed at least two full years to get back on the field.

With that said, it's worth remembering the type of quarterback Bridgewater was before the injury -- and how his approach appears unlikely to change now.

In 2015, his only full season as a starter, Bridgewater's average pass traveled 6.7 yards past the line of scrimmage. That number ranked No. 33 of 35 quarterbacks that season. His decidedly cautious approach helped minimize turnovers -- his interception rate of 2.0 ranked No. 12 of 35 that season -- but the Vikings were hoping he would look downfield more aggressively in 2016.

Suffice it to say, Bridgewater did no such thing during his extended relief appearance against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. His average pass traveled 6.1 yards past the line of scrimmage, the sixth-lowest in the NFL for Week 2. Bridgewater's average completion against the Rams, meanwhile, traveled only 3.9 yards past the line of scrimmage. That was lower than injured starter Drew Brees had in all but one game in 2018. Overall, 99 of Bridgewater's 165 passing yards Sunday came on yards gained after the catch.


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Bridgewater has a strong enough arm to drive the ball downfield, but in parts of three regular seasons, he has done so at a much lower rate than most NFL quarterbacks. The Saints must either adjust their offense accordingly or demand a level of aggressiveness Bridgewater has never shown at this level.

Historic Futility Award: Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen, Miami Dolphins

Take a look at the Week 2 QBR rankings. You probably won't be surprised to see one of the Dolphins' quarterbacks at the bottom. I doubt you'll be shocked to see the other one spot above him.

Fitzpatrick registered a 3.9 Total QBR in the Dolphins' 43-0 loss to the New England Patriots. Rosen, who replaced Fitzpatrick for the second consecutive week, wasn't much better at 5.9. Those are out of a possible 100, by the way.

Only one other time, in the 14 seasons that ESPN Stats & Information has tracked QBR, have two quarterbacks from the same team finished with the lowest two ratings. That came in Week 14 of the 2012 season, with the infamous Arizona Cardinals duo of Ryan Lindley and John Skelton.

Fitzpatrick and Rosen were particularly awful on third down, converting none of the 11 they dropped back for. They completed just one of eight passes for 2 yards. Fitzpatrick took two sacks and also threw two interceptions on third downs, just to make things a little spicier.

There will be plenty of opportunities to crush the Dolphins this season, from just about every angle imaginable. Will this be the last time a Dolphins quarterback ranks last in QBR in 2019? Unlikely.

Ridiculous Patrick Mahomes Award: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

This award goes to its namesake, now and perhaps forever, for doing something most of us have never seen before. Quite simply, Mahomes treated us to one of the most productive quarters in NFL history.

In the second quarter of the Chiefs' 28-10 victory over the Oakland Raiders, Mahomes threw for 278 yards and all four of the Chiefs' touchdowns for the game. That's more than any quarterback has thrown in any quarter in the NFL's past 40 years, except for one game by Brees in 2008. It's also more than twice Trubisky's total in four quarters Sunday against the Broncos. (OK, that's my last shot at Trubisky today.)

In one stunning sequence, Mahomes completed five consecutive passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air. Three went for touchdowns: 42 yards to receiver Mecole Hardman, 27 yards to tight end Travis Kelce and 39 yards to receiver Demarcus Robinson. The pass to Robinson was the sixth-most difficult completion of Week 2, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. It traveled 49.7 yards from Mahomes' hands to Robinson's, per NFL Next Gen Stats, and was complete despite a defender running with just 0.8 yards separation.

We'll check in next week to see if Mahomes can actually put together four productive quarters in one game. The Chiefs host the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

Quick Reflexes Award: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

The Pittsburgh Steelers made an unusual decision Sunday: They blitzed Wilson on 63% of his dropbacks, the third-highest rate in a game in his career. If you had any question that Wilson has developed into an elite-level passer, his performance against the Steelers' blitzing should settle the issue.

He completed 17-of-22 passes for 209 yards and three of the Seahawks' four touchdowns when facing five or more pass-rushers. How did he do it? Wilson released the ball in relatively breathtaking speed, contrary to years of holding on to it while he looked to make a play. Sunday, Wilson's average time to throw was 1.89 seconds, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, the fastest such time for an NFL quarterback in two seasons (minimum 14 attempts). And in 111 starts between 2012 and 2018, no quarterback held the ball longer than Wilson (average of 2.88 seconds, minimum 24 starts).

So here's a memo to the Saints, who will travel to Seattle in Week 3, and the rest of the Seahawks' future opponents: You might think it's logical to blitz Wilson in hopes that he'll hold the ball long enough to take a sack or otherwise have his throw disrupted. But Sunday's performance in Pittsburgh suggests that you would be wrong.