Buccaneers vs. Bears final score, takeaways: Chicago looks like a contender as Trubisky erupts for six TDs
Mitchell Trubisky finally broke out and the Bears' defense put an end to FitzMagic
The Chicago Bears aren't who we thought they were. We thought they were on the rise, but still feeling their way through a rebuilding process. We thought they'd be competitive, but still not ready to compete with the Packers and Vikings in the NFC North. We thought, after they rode their defense to victories in two of their first three games, Mitchell Trubisky would hold the Bears back from reaching such great heights -- that he'd prevent the Bears from breaking their playoff drought.
We might've been wrong. The Bears might've already finished the rebuilding process. The Bears might be ready to win the NFC North right now. Trubisky might be good enough to help the Bears reach the promised land. Such great heights might be attainable.
After their absolute demolishing of the Buccaneers on Sunday (the final score was 48-10), the Bears are 3-1. They've won three games in a row. They've outscored their competition by 46 points. They're still in first place in the NFC North.
We already knew the Bears' defense, which entered the week ranked first in DVOA, was playoff-worthy. Questions, however, persisted on the other side of the ball after Trubisky slogged his way through the first three weeks. Against a very bad Buccaneers' defense, Trubisky finally erupted.
Trubisky began the game with nine touchdowns in 15 career games. In the first half alone, as the Bears constructed a 38-3 lead, he threw for 289 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions, and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. At that point, he had more touchdowns than incompletions.
Trubisky became the first quarterback since Aaron Rodgers in 2014 (against the Bears in a game that Chicago has likely purged from its memory) to throw five first-half touchdowns. He would throw one more in the second half to bump his total to six. For context, consider that a Bears quarterback hadn't thrown five touchdowns in an entire game since the years of Sid Luckman.
Trubisky's final statline looked like this: 19 of 26 for 354 yards (13.6 YPA), six touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 154.7 passer rating. That'll work.
So will this:
We'll start from the beginning, because the Bears have now scored touchdowns on three of their four opening-game drives. On Sunday, Matt Nagy's early game-script proved to be unstoppable again.
They started with a quick screen to Tarik Cohen on the outside. Jordan Howard picked up four yards on second down. Trubisky converted on third down with a sneak. From there, the Bears used a zone-read with Trubisky to acquire 23 more yards. Off play-action a couple plays later, Trubisky spotted Trey Burton, who also had a big block to spring Trubisky's scamper, open down the right sideline.
The Bears led 7-0 via this 39-yard strike.
The Bears' opening-game drive chart now looks like this:
- 10 plays, 86 yards, TD
- 10 plays, 96 yards, TD
- 12 plays, 47 yards, missed FG
- 6 plays, 75 yards, TD
Before Sunday, Trubisky rarely found success after the opening series. It looked as if that would be the case again when he missed an easy throw on the Bears' second series and then took a sack. But on the Bears' third drive, Trubisky made the best throw of his sophomore season to take a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
Patiently waiting for the routes to develop, Trubisky weighted a pass to Allen Robinson in the corner of the end zone. This isn't Nagy scheming up an easy touchdown. This is a quarterback throwing his covered receiver open by putting the ball in the one spot the trailing defender couldn't access.
The Bears went to Taylor Gabriel and Tarik Cohen on their third-scoring series. After the Buccaneers answered with a field goal, the Bears marched right back downfield. Similar to how Sean McVay schemed Todd Gurley open in the red zone on Thursday night, Nagy got Cohen isolated in coverage in the red zone. Trubisky scored a hat-trick early in the second quarter.
This is all scheme:
After making Cohen a focal point, Nagy turned him into a decoy. Trubisky's fourth touchdown was all about Cohen distracting the Buccaneers' defense from the real threat. The Bears made it look as if Trubisky would be hitting Cohen quickly for a screen, but went up top to Josh Bellamy instead. Two Buccaneers defenders hounded Cohen at the line of scrimmage while Bellamy slipped through unnoticed.
Impressive pic.twitter.com/rGRH2p0bN6— Rick Tarsitano (@RickTarsitano) September 30, 2018
How's this for scheme? On Trubisky's fifth touchdown, Nagy put backup quarterback Chase Daniel in the backfield alongside Trubisky. The snap went to Trubisky, but the ball left his hands a split-second later as Gabriel came across the formation and gathered Trubisky's hot-potato "pass."
At halftime, the Bears led 38-3. They could've sat Trubisky if they wanted to and let him watch the rest of the game from the bench, but they let him rack up the stats instead. With good reason.
Entering the game, he was a young quarterback in crisis. The openings had been there during the first three weeks, but he was neither seeing them nor hitting them. Nagy's scheme hasn't been an issue. It'd been on Trubisky for failing to execute. With Trubisky finally seeing and hitting the openings, the Bears let him keep on doing that during the second half.
He threw his sixth touchdown early in the third quarter.
He really wasn't afforded the chance to tie the NFL record with his seventh touchdown. With the Bears in time-wasting mode the rest of the way, Trubisky finished with only six touchdowns.
This Bears offense has always had the right personnel and play-caller to explode. But it's impossible to explode when a quarterback isn't seeing what he should be seeing. Trubisky's eyes finally went where they needed to. And the Bears' offense took flight. Robinson got involved with that touchdown. Cohen exploded for 174 yards on 20 touches. The Trubisky-Gabriel connection was unstoppable.
Yes, this all happened against a bad Buccaneers defense, but this is still an important sign of progress. The Bears couldn't do much of anything offensively against a bad Cardinals defense a week ago. Beating up on bad defenses is what good offenses are supposed to do. Hitting open receivers is what a good quarterback is supposed to do. The Bears have looked like a good offense in bursts before Sunday. They finally submitted their first complete performance on Sunday.
And so, it's time to take the Bears seriously as a playoff-caliber team. The Vikings and Packers are both vulnerable. There's an opening in the NFC North. The Bears might just take it.
Khalil Mack bolsters MVP case
Mack shouldn't just be the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year. He should also be in the MVP conversation. Every week is another reminder that the Raiders somehow managed to give away a generational pass-rusher talent who is worth every dollar the Bears spent on him.
For the fourth-straight game, Mack forced a fumble and brought down a quarterback. Mack now has five sacks this season.
Trubisky was the story of the game for six obvious reasons. But don't overlook how well this Bears defense played again for a fourth-straight game. They entered Week 4 as the best defense in football by DVOA. They proceeded to hold a Buccaneers' offense that was averaging 34 points per game to 10 points. They entered the game with an NFL-high 14 sacks even though they were blitzing at the league's lowest rate. They proceeded to bring down the Buccaneers' quarterbacks four times.
Mack just makes everyone on the Bears' defense better. Akiem Hicks is no longer the main concern for opposing offenses. He got to Fitzpatrick once in the first half. Leonard Floyd is a secondary pass-rushing option instead of a focal point. He didn't get a sack, but he deflected a pass and registered a quarterback hit. Bilal Nichols and Roy Robertson-Harris each got credited with half a sack. Aaron Lynch (one sack) has been fantastic in a relief-pitcher role. The Bears can attack from so many different areas, but that's because teams have to commit so many resources to one area: wherever Mack is lurking.
They didn't need to on Sunday, but the Bears' defense is good enough to win games on their own.
FitzMagic runs dry
On that note, here's where we eulogize the FitzMagic era in Tampa Bay. Ryan Fitzpatrick played valiantly in place of Jameis Winston, but his time as the Buccaneers' starting quarterback likely ended against the Bears.
Fitzpatrick, who threw for an NFL record 400 yards in three straight games to begin the season, earned the start even though Winston was eligible to play after serving his. He lasted until halftime. Fitzpatrick wasn't the reason why the Buccaneers trailed by 35 points at halftime, but he found himself on the bench for the second half.
Fitzpatrick, who was sacked twice, went 9 of 18 for 126 yards, no touchdowns, one pick, and a 49.8 passer rating.
That might be the last time we get an extended look at Fitzpatrick this season.
Winston didn't start, but he played the entire second half. It's difficult to judge how he played given the context -- the Bears were up by 35 points when he entered the game -- but what we saw from Winston was pretty typical. He made a few plays out of nothing by scrambling around in the backfield and he also made a couple mistakes that have come to define his career to this point.
Winston completed 16 of 20 passes for 145 yards, one touchdown, two picks, and a 74.0 passer rating. As noted above, his first interception was more about Mack. His second pick, which came at the tail-end of the game, was on him as he failed to identify the underneath coverage and gave Aaron Lynch a gift.
Again, given the game context, it's difficult to assess how Winston fared in his return. What's important is that he was given a chance to reintegrate himself after missing the first three weeks. Barring something completely unexpected, Winston should be the team's starter moving forward.
Akiem Hicks ejected
Hicks, who notched a sack of Fitzpatrick, got ejected in the first half when he shoved an official. It didn't matter much with the Bears already in control of the game -- if anything, it prevented him from picking up an injury in garbage time -- but it could matter moving forward if the NFL levies a suspension.
Hicks is the Bears' best pass rusher not named Khalil Mack. His sack in the first half pushed his season total to three. Since joining the Bears in 2016, he has 18.5 sacks in 36 games.
Not much. Both teams enjoy an early Week 5 bye, so they'll be resting at home next week.
Beyond that, the Bears' post-bye schedule includes some AFC East fixtures. They'll head to Miami for a Week 6 date with the Dolphins before returning home to host the Patriots and Jets. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers (2-2) get going again against the Falcons in Week 6. The Browns and Bengals await the Buccaneers in Weeks 7 and 8.
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