CHICAGO – The Chicago Bears traded up to draft quarterback Mitchell Trubisky last year and paid a king’s ransom for it, hoping he would become the next Tom Brady.
Trubisky may instead become the next Bobby Douglass.
The second-year Bears’ quarterback was killing the Patriots, not with his arm, but rather with his legs. Trubisky led the Bears with 81 yards rushing and a touchdown, and almost had a second rushing touchdown on a 39-yard scramble which left him a yard shy of a touchdown. The Patriots needed a spy for him, but the Patriots eventually forced Trubisky to have to throw the ball a bit more.
When he did, he wound up with 333 yards passing, and almost sent the game to overtime on the final play. From his own 45, he launched a desperation Hail Mary towards the end zone, and Kevin White outjumped Josh Gordon for the ball and caught it at the one. But Duron Harmon and about four other Patriots smothered White and did not let him score, preventing overtime and saving a 38-31 victory for the Patriots on Sunday at Soldier Field. It was the second wild game in a row for the Patriots, and a crazy win with the game in the balance on the final play.
The Patriots managed to win their first road game of the season, but Bill Belichick will still have to work on some things going forward. The Patriots had three turnovers, with the Bears scoring 21 points off those turnovers. The Patriots had no answer for tight end Trey Burton, who had nine catches for 126 yards and a touchdown and was frequently left wide open over the middle. Penalties were also a problem, as the Patriots were flagged seven times for 64 yards.
But in the end, the Patriots knew better how to win than the Bears did. After Burton scored his touchdown late in the fourth quarter after manhandling Jonathan Jones to get open in the end zone to make it 38-31, Brady took over and, along with James White, led the Patriots on a drive which almost killed off the entire time left in the game. Bleeding the Bears dry of timeouts, the Patriots got it down to 30 seconds left before the drive stalled at the Chicago 34. They had a 52-yard field goal as an option, but Belichick opted to punt, thinking the Bears had no chance to come back with no timeouts. At the time it seemed like sound strategy.
But Chicago and Trubisky nearly pulled it off.
Ryan Allen’s punt sailed too far and wound up being a touchback, giving the Bears the ball at the 20. Trubisky connected on three of four passes (the incomplete being a spike to stop the clock) for 25 yards, putting the ball at the 45 with two seconds left. Trubisky was barely able to launch a deep Hail Mary ball towards the goal line. Gordon was deep in coverage along with safeties Harmon and Patrick Chung. The ball found its way to White, who outjumped Gordon for the ball. “Knock it down!” didn’t apply here, as the ball was slightly underthrown and away from most of the defenders. As soon as White caught the ball, Harmon grabbed White, and was joined quickly by several Patriot defenders to push him back and stop forward progress while time ran out. The game ended there, but the fact that White caught the ball at all was not good. Gordon has done well in his short stint with the Patriots offensively, but he’s not quite a two-way player like Troy Brown just yet.
Douglass was a quarterback for the Bears from 1969 to 1975. A left-hander, Douglass was perhaps the second-most celebrated of the passing-challenged quarterbacks in Bears history (after Jim McMahon). In 1972, Douglass almost rushed for 1,000 yards (968 yards rushing and a 6.9 average with 8 touchdowns), but completed only 43% of his passes as a Bear. Trubisky averaged 13.9 yards per carry, and bedeviled the Patriots with his running more than his passing. For certain, Trubisky will not become the next Douglass, but his scrambling ability is something that the league will have to stand up and take notice.
Still, the Patriots had plenty of firepower, even minus Rob Gronkowski, to dominate the Bears. But the Patriots kept the Bears hanging around thanks to two lost fumbles and a Brady interception on what was a lousy pass and a bad decision.
After a Cody Parkey field goal in the first quarter, Cordarelle Patterson took the kickoff, and was popped by Nick Kwiatkowski. The ball popped up in the air and was recovered by DeAndre Houston-Carson. Five plays later, Trubisky rolled out right, then turned back left and wound up running it in on a nine-yard scramble.
Sony Michel had a nice first quarter with 36 yards from scrimmage. But on the first play of the second quarter, he dropped the football after being twisted the wrong way on a tackle by Bilal Nichols. Nichols picked up the fumble, and the Bears answered with a nine-play, 36-yard drive capped by a 2-yard run by Jordan Howard.
In the fourth quarter, on third and two at the Chicago 35, Brady rolled out right and tried to hit James Develin in the flat. Adrian Amos was draped all over Develin and should have had the pick right there, but he deflected the ball in the air and into the hands of Kyle Fuller. Six plays later, Trubisky found Burton in the end zone for the touchdown which made it 38-31 Patriots.
One thing that saved the day for the Patriots was special teams. Right after the Bears’ touchdown in the second quarter after the Michel fumble, Patterson atoned for his earlier fumble by returning the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. In the third quarter, Dont’a Hightower broke through and blocked a Pat O’Donnell punt, and Kyle Van Noy picked up the ball and ran it in from 29 yards out. It was the first blocked punt return for a touchdown by a Patriot since Tedy Bruschi did it in his rookie season of 1996.
Trubisky also threw two interceptions, with nice plays both times by the Patriot defenders. J.C. Jackson got a pick in the third quarter by wrestling a right sideline pass to Joshua Bellamy from the receiver as they fell to the ground. Early in the fourth quarter, Jonathan Jones had a spectacular one-handed pick on a left sideline pass to Anthony Miller.
Trubisky had 26 of 50 passing, but a rating of only 69.8. Brady was 25 of 36 passing for 277 yards, three touchdowns and a rating of 108.2. On this day, Trubisky was definitely more like Douglass and not at all like Brady.
James White led the Patriots with 11 rushes for 40 yards, while Gordon had 100 yards on four catches highlighted by a 55-yard pass that, like Trubisky, came up one yard shy of a touchdown. White had the most receptions with eight.
Michel’s injury on the fumble was a knee injury, and he did not return. There was no word on the severity of the injury.
The Patriots will be at Buffalo next Monday night, buoyant over their first road win of the year. Hopefully, the Patriot defense will be up to the task, as the offense has topped 38 points for four weeks in a row now, but the last two games have been nailbiters.
In the end, Brady knows better how to win, and Trubisky some day will too.
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