The Bears defense exhibited another dominant performance in Monday night’s 24-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. And although quarterback Mitch Trubisky was inconsistent in his play, he did engineer three scoring drives and threw two touchdown passes in the win.
If there is one thing that seems certain in the Bears’ eight quarters of regular season action this season, it’s that this defense is built to win championships right now. Fortunately, the defense’s core is young and signed to long-term deals. This gives Trubisky and the Bears’ offense a chance to develop along the way.
Clearly, the Bears’ offense doesn’t stack up to where the defense is, and for good reason. The defensive scheme has been in place for more than three years now and it just added one of, if not the best player at his position in Khalil Mack. So, obviously, when you compare them to an offense that can be considered a toddler — stumbling around, trying to find its footing — the difference in play is going to seem alarming.
But when you separate your excitement about the defense from the reality of where the offense is after two weeks, there is a lot to like about what we’ve seen.
How has the Bears offense improved?
Let’s start with the time of possession, which is one of the most important metrics — outside of points scored — to determine an offense’s control on a game.
(There are exceptions, of course. If the opponent’s offense scores all its points in quick fashion, then that means the Bears’ offense is always going to be on the field. But given what we’ve seen from the Bears’ defense, that has not been the case so far this season.)
In Week 1 against the Packers, the Bears picked up 18 first downs and controlled the clock with a 33:22 time of possession. Monday night against the Seahawks, the Bears increased that to 20 first downs with a 34:24 time of possession.
Controlling the clock is critical to limiting an opposing offense’s chances to score and the Bears have been solid at doing just that through two weeks.
What about the points?
Holding the ball for a long time by itself is not enough to win games. The offense needs to put points on the board, too.
How have the Bears done in scoring so far?
Against the Packers, the Bears’ offense scored 16 points on three field goals and a Mitch Trubisky touchdown run. Versus the Seahawks, Trubisky had a pair of touchdown passes — one to tight end Trey Burton and the other to rookie receiver Anthony Miller — and they added a field goal to score 17 points.
It’s a one-point increase, but it’s progress nonetheless.
Positive signs in Mitch Trubisky’s development
Lastly, we analyze the stats to see how Trubisky’s development is coming along.
Trubisky completed 23 of 35 passes (65.7%) for 171 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions with a 77.2 passer rating in Week 1 against the Packers. Monday night against the Seahawks, he connected on 25 of 34 passes (73.5%) for 200 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions with a 83.0 passer rating.
Improvement across the board, no? For the most part, yes. Except for those pesky interceptions.
Trubisky’s ‘happy feet’ and decision-making will improve
One of Trubisky’s biggest criticisms has been that he gets “happy feet” — which simply means he doesn’t set his feet and make his throws when the pocket closes in around him.
Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark said as much — and more — after the game.
“Happy feet — once he feels any pressure, his head is down and he’s gone,” Clark told the media. “Pressure is his downfall; the more you can get pressure up the middle and in his face, and he throws those errant passes like that, that’s how you can beat him.”
The word — and the game film — is out. Teams know this, and the only way Trubisky can correct it is to work out the jitters. He has to learn to trust his offensive line and to stand in there and take a hit if necessary.
Where Trubisky’s judgment can improve
Time can correct comfortability in the pocket. As it can decision making, which is one area that was evident last night.
I don’t have a problem with Trubisky’s second interception. It was a deflected pass at the line of scrimmage. We know that once those deflected passes go up in the air, it’s anyone’s ball.
Frankly, I’m not as upset about the first interception, either. The correct read on the play was firing the ball down the right sideline to a streaking Allen Robinson. Unfortunately, the read was slow and the ball poorly thrown.
Trubisky didn’t set his feet or get enough mustard on the pass to lead Robinson. The pass was so short that Robinson couldn’t even go up and fight for it at best, or knock it down at least.
Slow reads and underthrown passes are correctable things, so I’m not alarmed by either of his two picks.
However, the critical pass that did not get picked off bothered me more than the interceptions.
Trubisky escaped the pocket and tried to thread a pass between two defenders into the end zone. Fortunately, Seattle knocked the ball away rather than pick it off and take it 100 yards in the other direction.
Trubisky was lucky the play didn’t cost the Bears, but he has to know not to throw that pass.
In Trubisky’s 14th game as a pro, I’m not going to crucify the guy for trying to thread the needle. He needs to, and will, learn the speed of the NFL game and he’ll recognize that tight windows close rapidly.
If, however, he keeps forcing balls into tight spaces after many years — think Jay Cutler — then it’ll start to hurt the offense more when he loses opportunities for points by throwing picks.
Bears defense affords offensive growing pains
Matt Nagy’s Bears are fortunate to have such a great defense in the head coach’s first year on the job. It’s because of that unit that the Bears will be competitive in each and every game this season. If not for the defense, the offense’s mistakes would be more troublesome.
But the offense does have reason to feel good about its progress in just two weeks. There’s no reason to hit the panic button yet on Trubisky’s inconsistency after just 14 games into his career.