Haugh: Trubisky Flashes In Cathartic Performance

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(670 The Score) What Mitchell Trubisky accomplished most Monday was to confirm that Chicago should expect more from the Bears quarterback, because he looks capable of delivering it.
If Trubisky can play as impressively as he did in the second quarter of a 31-15 victory over the Redskins at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., then he should show that polish more consistently. If he can explode for three touchdown passes to Bears receiver Taylor Gabriel in a 6-minute, 17-second span in the second quarter, then he should execute the passing game more efficiently when the competition stiffens.

This was a porous Redskins defense that Trubisky picked apart in a cathartic performance the Bears offense needed badly after two uneven starts – but whether it signaled a turnaround in Trubisky’s season remains to be seen. This was Trubisky thriving in a no-huddle attack and regaining confidence with a short passing game that took what the Redskins gave it – and then took some more. This was a young quarterback who responded to the growing pressure on him to improve, particularly on third down, when Trubisky completed 10 of 11 passes. This was a beleaguered offense finally holding up its end of the bargain as the Bears defense again dominated with five takeaways and a touchdown of its own.

"This was big for our offense," Trubisky told reporters postgame. "I don’t know if I’d call it a breakthrough game, because we still can get better."

True, but this was the kind of offensive outburst everyone had been waiting for from Trubisky in 2019, and yet a bad interception in the red zone late in the third quarter served as a reminder not to get too carried away with a good showing against a bad team. The pick came when Trubisky badly underthrew wide receiver Allen Robinson in the end zone and Redskins cornerback Josh Norman intercepted the floater at the Redskins' 3-yard line. A touchdown would've turned the game into a rout, but the self-inflicted turnover created unnecessary drama.

"He had a very good week of practice," coach Matt Nagy said of Trubisky. "He was mentally prepared. He’s mentally strong. We’re slowly getting better."

In completing 25 of 31 passes for 231 yards and three touchdown passes like all the cool quarterbacks around the league, Trubisky gave us reason to believe he had made the incremental progress he sought. Unfortunately, bouts of inaccuracy early and late reminded us how far Trubisky still has to go. The 116.5 passer rating sparkles. The videotape reveals familiar flaws. Nagy opened up the game plan more than he did against the Broncos a week prior, showing more trust in Trubisky, yet the offense still didn’t stretch the field against a secondary that was elastic in its first two losses.

In his 29th regular-season start, Trubisky flashed both the potential that convinced Bears general manager Ryan Pace to make him the second overall draft pick in 2017 and the bad habits that have interfered with his ascent since taking over as a rookie. At times, it was promising. At others, it was confounding.

If the Bears offense found someone to truly get excited about against the Redskins, his name was David Montgomery, the rookie who carried 13 times for 67 yards, including seven carries and a 25-yarder on the final scoring drive that showcased his ability to run through tackles and find daylight. As the schedule gets tougher, expect the Bears to rely upon Montgomery even more. The best news of the night for the Bears might have been that Montgomery appears ready for a bigger load. He found room behind an offensive line playing with backup right tackle Cornelius Lucas playing for starter Bobby Massie, who missed the game with vertigo.

A capable quarterback and a formidable running game finally gave an elite Bears defense the complement it deserves.

Not that the defense necessarily needed much during its third straight dominant performance. After five takeaways against the Redskins, can we stop talking about regression now?

The first one came from safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who got the last laugh against the team that let him walk in free agency with a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown. Clinton-Dix and Kyle Fuller added picks later. Khalil Mack lived up to his billing as an NFL game-wrecker with two sacks, including a strip-sack of Redskins quarterback Case Keenum that Akiem Hicks recovered. The final Redskins turnover came on fourth-and-1 from the Bears' 16 with the outcome still in doubt when linebacker Danny Trevathan punched the ball out of Keenum’s grasp and Eddie Jackson recovered. That allowed the Bears defense to sigh with relief after the Redskins had scored 15 unanswered points, including a 97-yard drive.

"We were tested there at the end and a little bit of a swing, but our guys hung tough," Nagy said.

The Bears survived a sloppy game to win their second straight road contest, no easy task regardless of the opponent. They improved to 2-1 in an NFC North shaping up to be the NFC’s toughest division. Their Super Bowl-caliber defense made a strong statement on national television loud enough to resonate around the league.

They step up in class Sunday at Soldier Field against the Vikings, who will provide a better gauge of where Trubisky is. Let this mark the unofficial end of the Bears preseason.

If Monday night was a big game for Trubisky, the next one is even bigger.

David Haugh is the co-host of the Mully & Haugh Show on 670 The Score weekdays from 5-9 a.m. Listen to the show here. You can follow him on Twitter @DavidHaugh and email him at david.haugh@entercom.com.