Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky got his chance to start in Chicago. The second-overall pick showed signs of promise in the Bears’ 20-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Kai Forbath’s 26-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the game lifted the Vikings to victory after Case Keenum replaced Sam Bradford at quarterback in the second quarter.
Here’s what we learned during Monday night’s game:
1. Mitchell Trubisky’s first career start was a mixed bag.
The Good: Trubisky displayed the pinpoint accuracy he showed this preseason was no fluke. When the rookie rolls out and throws on the run, it’s a thing of beauty. The Bears utilized the rookie’s athleticism, getting him out of the pocket often and simplifying his reads. Trubisky’s athleticism allowed the Bears to diversify the playbook, utilizing more stretch runs and pocket movement. The rookie was at his best getting the ball out of his hands quickly. He made a receiver corps of second-fiddles nearly serviceable.
The Not So Good: As with most rookies, however, Trubisky struggled with consistency against Mike Zimmer’s defense. He missed a blitz call early and fumbled on a sack leading the Vikings first points of the game. Trubisky is a marvel when the play breaks down, but missed a few throws in the pocket, and didn’t stretch the field much at all. Through three quarters he completed just 10 of 21 passes for 102 yards and couldn’t put points on the board in the first half despite his first four drives getting into Vikings’ territory (all four ending in punts). Trubisky’s teammates didn’t help the rookie out much, picking up several costly penalties early. His offensive line — particularly tackle Charles Leno — also allowed the Vikings to get consistent pressure in the rookie’s face. Trubisky’s first career TD pass came on a would-be interception tipped into Zack Miller’s hands on a rollout. It was a fitting first touchdown for the rookie. Trubisky made a brutal error when a short pass intended for Miller landed him his first interception with almost two minutes left in the game.
To boil it down: Trubisky owns tremendous upside and displayed why he’s a clear upgrade on Mike Glennon, but has several strides to make in his development.
2. Sam Bradford’s return lasted fewer than two quarters. After missing the past three games with a knee injury, the wobbly quarterback was yanked from the game on the final drive of the first half in favor of Case Keenum. Bradford didn’t look right from the get-go. The veteran signal-caller was out of sync with his receivers and made poor decisions, including sitting forever in the end zone and taking a safety. More than anything Bradford didn’t look healthy at all and was a sitting duck in the pocket (four sacks). He was a danger to himself and his team on the field. Zimmer had no choice but to pull the starter. Bradford finished 5-of-11 passing for 36 yards.
3. The Vikings offense put up 34 total yards on 26 plays with Bradford under center. When Case Keenum took over, the Vikings offense found life. After a token drive to end the half, Keenum remained in to start the third quarter and led a 13-play, 75-yard drive, culminating on a rollout TD toss across his body to tight end Kyle Rudolph. Keenum led back-to-back touchdown drives to open the second half. With Keenum able to dodge rushers, the Vikings offense simply ran better with the backup under center. He finished 17-for-21 passing for 140 yards and a TD. With Bradford clearly still hobbled, Keenum playing solid, and Teddy Bridgewater on a path to possibly return, the Vikings QB situation remains a murky jumble.
4. The rush to replace Dalvin Cook has begun. Latavius Murray earned the start and got most of the early carries as the Vikings offense struggled. Then Jerick McKinnon busted out, shouldering Minnesota’s offense. The dual-threat back ripped off a 58-yard TD run in the second half, totaled 16 carries for 95 yards and was the Vikings leading receiver with six receptions for 51 yards. McKinnon accounted for 146 of the Vikings 300 total yards. After sitting behind Adrian Peterson, then being buried behind the dynamic rookie to start the season, McKinnon deserves a shot at the lead role. He’s a closer representation to the back the Vikings offense needs than the plodding Murray.
5. The Vikings defense continues to smother opposing offenses. Everson Griffen destroyed Bears blockers all game. The Bears couldn’t run the ball early thanks to stout run defense up the gut. The backend made life difficult for Trubisky. Harrison Smith was thrown at four times, per Pro Football Focus, giving up just one catch for minus 3 yards and earned the game-winning interception. The rookie quarterback didn’t even test Xavier Rhodes, who wasn’t targeted at all for the first time in his career, per PFF. Zimmer’s defense once again proved it can carry an uneven offense to a victory.
6. Speaking of defensive efforts,
Bears pass rusher
Leonard Floyd played his best game as a pro, earning six tackles, four for loss, two sacks and three QB hits. Chicago desperately needs the first-round pick to live up to his talent.
Akiem Hicks also continued his spectacular season, earning two sacks and three tackles for loss. Hicks’ performance this season will likely fly under the radar because he’s not a big name and plays on a losing team, but he’s been fantastic thus far.