Bears’ Tru­bisky tries to steer clear of mis­takes in 1st play­off game

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY GENE CHAM­BER­LAIN

It hasn’t been a streak of ac­cu­racy on a level with Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Tom Brady. Nev­er­the­less, Chicago Bears quar­ter­back Mitchell Tru­bisky has elim­i­nated in­ter­cep­tions over his past three starts.

Whether Tru­bisky can con­tinue mak­ing good de­ci­sions and throws in his first play­off game at Soldier Field against the de­fend­ing Su­per Bowl cham­pion Philadel­phia Ea­gles could go a long way to­ward de­ter­min­ing if the Bears’ sea­son con­tin­ues.

“I think I’ve got­ten bet­ter through the course of the sea­son,” Tru­bisky said, “just con­tin­u­ing to make ad­just­ments, mak­ing those split-sec­ond de­ci­sions and just con­tinue to get bet­ter and be crit­i­cal of my­self when I don’t and learn from those mis­takes.”

Tru­bisky, the for­mer North Car­olina stand­out, suf­fered through a dif­fi­cult three-in­ter­cep­tion game in the Bears’ 15-6 win over the Los An­ge­les Rams, when he re­turned from a two-game ab­sence be­cause of a shoul­der in­jury.

Af­ter a third-quar­ter in­ter­cep­tion, Bears coach Matt Nagy went en­tirely to the ground game the rest of the way. Since then, Tru­bisky has be­come deadly ac­cu­rate and clutch.

“He just han­dles ad­ver­sity,” Nagy said. “He knows how to run this of­fense now. He’s at a point right now where when he calls a play in the hud­dle, he can start look­ing at the de­fense rather than look­ing at the of­fense.”

Tru­bisky went 63 of 83 for 644 yards with three touch­down passes and no in­ter­cep­tions for a passer rat­ing of 109.7 in wins over the Pack­ers, 49ers and Vik­ings.

Nagy called it a mat­ter of coaches fig­ur­ing out what plays and for­ma­tions Tru­bisky per­forms best and knows best.

“I think he’s fi­nally start­ing to re­ally un­der­stand who we are be­com­ing as an iden­tity within this of­fense,” Nagy said.

So Nagy has some ad­vice for Tru­bisky head­ing into his first post­sea­son game, as the Bears try to take ad­van­tage of an Ea­gles pass de­fense ranked 30th in the NFL.

“To not change, for him to con­tinue to do just what he does,” Nagy said. “Last week, he had a lit­tle bit of a test of it, and I thought he did a great job han­dling the sit­u­a­tion.”

The 24-10 win at Min­nesota last Sun­day fea­tured some of Tru­bisky’s best play on third down. He ac­counted for seven third-down con­ver­sions. And he did it against the NFL’s best third-down de­fense.

“We all have our trust in him,” run­ning back Tarik Co­hen said. “We’ve seen him make the best of plays when times didn’t look so bright. Just the things he can do with the ball, his arm and in­clud­ing his feet, it’s amaz­ing to watch.”

Tru­bisky’s run­ning abil­ity on third down has been a big key. He has run for 421 yards this sea­son and ac­knowl­edges he’s even sur­prised by his own abil­ity to es­cape the pocket at times.

“I al­ways try to have eyes in the back of my head, have my head on a swivel, take care of the foot­ball and make smart de­ci­sions,” he said. “But it’s pretty cool in some sit­u­a­tions you can es­cape from.”

Tight end Trey Bur­ton played for the Su­per Bowl cham­pion Ea­gles last year and sees Tru­bisky’s sec­ond-year de­vel­op­ment on a course sim­i­lar to Philadel­phia quar­ter­back Car­son Wentz in his sec­ond sea­son in 2017.

Bur­ton reeled off a list of Tru­bisky’s re­cent im­prove­ments.

“Some of the throws he’s been able to make,” Bur­ton said, “some of the plays he’s got­ten us into from an of­fen­sive stand­point, some of the times when teams are blitz­ing and the way he’s able to scram­ble, some of the in­tan­gi­bles that not too many guys have in this league, I mean you see him show up.”

Tru­bisky’s de­vel­op­ment came about af­ter plenty of self-crit­i­cism, es­pe­cially af­ter the Rams game.

“Those are great learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences,” Tru­bisky said. “And those were in­stances where I just came back was crit­i­cal of my­self, watched the film and re­ally fig­ured out how I could change my mind­set and do a bet­ter job in prac­tice dur­ing the week just get­ting pre­pared.”

The baby-faced Tru­bisky is sport­ing a play­off beard these days, as are all the Bears quar­ter­backs. It took a while, though. He started grow­ing it the first week of the sea­son.

It seems an un­usual time to start think­ing play­offs.

“I had faith,” Tru­bisky said.

The same could be said for Nagy’s be­lief in his quar­ter­back’s de­vel­op­ment in the face of spo­radic crit­i­cism. Now he has a quar­ter­back not turn­ing over the ball and con­vert­ing third downs.

“When you do those things big pic­ture-wise, you’re in good shape,” Nagy said.

JIM MONE AP

Sec­ond-year Bears quar­ter­back Mitchell Tru­bisky has com­pleted 63 of 83 passes for 644 yards with three touch­downs and no in­ter­cep­tions in reg­u­lar-sea­son wins over the Pack­ers, 49ers and Vik­ings.

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