Mitch Trubisky May Be Turning a Corner, but Faces Impossible Task to Save Season

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistNovember 28, 2019

Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky scrambles during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

Oft-maligned Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky put together his most prolific passing performance of the year in a season-saving 24-20 Thanksgiving victory over the Detroit Lions on Thursday. 

But it's too little, too late for Trubisky and the 2019 Bears, who remain 2.5 games out of a playoff spot at 6-6 and close out the campaign with four consecutive matchups against teams that are currently above .500. 

The victory at Ford Field increased the Bears' playoff odds at FiveThirtyEight from 3 percent to...4 percent. They know, we know, and deep down, Bears fans all know that the 2019 version of this team just doesn't have what it takes to contend in the stacked NFC. 

And on Thursday, with the Bears merely surviving after falling behind by double digits to an opponent that had lost seven of its last eight games and was starting an undrafted rookie third-stringer at quarterback, America was alerted to the fact Chicago's problems go beyond Trubisky. 

Paul Sancya/Associated Press

Again, the third-year No. 2 overall pick wasn't bad. Just nine incomplete passes on 38 attempts, just the one ugly interception, three touchdown passes and a season-high 338 yards. It was the 12th triple-digit-rated game of Trubisky's career, but only the third in which the Bears either narrowly lost or won by fewer than five points. 

With the way Trubisky performed Thursday, Chicago should have blown out its slumping, depleted, poorly coached division rival. Instead, the Bears left themselves no margin for error because of putrid defense and stupid penalties. 

It's a reminder that while Trubisky has served as the poster child for the Bears' stunning decline in head coach Matt Nagy's second season, those surrounding the North Carolina product also deserve plenty of the blame. 

Just look at the defense, which led the NFL with fewest points allowed and most takeaways last season but has just four multi-takeaway performances this year. This wasn't one of them. In fact, the Lions didn't turn the ball over at all until quarterback David Blough threw a desperation interception on Detroit's last play from scrimmage. 

In the first game action of his professional career, Blough completed five deep passes for 15-plus yards, including a 75-yard touchdown to Kenny Golladay on his very first series. And had Danny Amendola not failed to haul in a fantastic deep attempt in the final minute of regulation, Blough likely would have gone over 300 yards, and the Lions likely would have pulled off the upset.

The Chicago defense gave up touchdowns on Blough's first two series and allowed two more long scoring drives later in the game. The final numbers weren't terrible, but the Bears still failed to make splashy plays or consistently get stops against a Lions offense that should have been in huge trouble without key starters Matthew Stafford and Kerryon Johnson. 

They essentially iced the game with a sack, but that was only the second time they got to Blough all day. They led the NFC with 50 sacks last season, but since the start of October, they rank dead-last in the conference with just 11

And then there were the penalties. Ten of them in total in Detroit, including three (one of which was declined) on a second-quarter drive that had the Bears in field-goal range but culminated in a turnover on downs. 

The illegal formation penalty that was declined because Chicago failed on a 4th-and-6? That happened coming out of a timeout, which epitomizes how messy things have become. 

It would have gotten worse for Chicago on Detroit's subsequent drive had an end-zone pass interference call on Bears cornerback Buster Skrine not been negated by a questionable offensive pass interference call on the same play. That drive was then extended by Leonard Floyd roughing the passer on a 3rd-and-15 play. Later in the game, a Roquan Smith penalty for unnecessary roughness gave Detroit's final drive a tremendous boost. 

Oh, and while it wasn't a penalty, there was also that time Trubisky oddly ran laterally when he was about a yard short of picking up a first down and Chicago had to settle for a short field goal. 

Trubisky has certainly regressed, but so has his supporting cast. The offensive line has lacked continuity. They miss Jordan Howard's change of pace. They've gotten pretty much nothing out of the tight end position. Their per-game penalty rate has increased from 6.25 to 7.08. And the defense has lost its teeth. 

None of it bodes well for Chicago's chances of turning its season around, especially because there are no more David Bloughs and no more Detroits on the schedule. 

The Bears finish up against the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys and the explosive Kansas City Chiefs at home and the currently playoff-bound Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings (who are a combined 10-1 at home) on the road. 

They're 1-4 this year against teams that are currently above .500, and little from Thursday should lead you to believe they can suddenly run the table against the four winning teams that await them. 

                

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.

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