The penultimate completion of Mitch Trubisky’s second season was an absolute dart. Corner route. Between two defenders. Just as he was being hit. Fired into Allen Robinson’s mitts with conviction. Twenty-five-yard gain.
This was the throw that pushed the Bears into field-goal range in the closing seconds of a playoff game. This was the completion Chicago could have spent this past week celebrating and lionizing. This was the pass coach Matt Nagy would have pointed to as evidence of what he’d emphasized three days before the game — that a quarterback’s legacy is ultimately defined by his performance in the postseason.
“I don’t think it’s a stat thing as much,” Nagy had said. “What people remember are the comebacks, making big plays at the right time.”
If only Cody Parkey had been able to squeeze a 43-yard field goal into the 18½-foot space between the north end-zone uprights at Soldier Field.
Still don’t minimize the importance of that final Bears drive, of that clutch Trubisky completion to Robinson with 44 seconds left. Had last Sunday’s season-ending one-point loss to the Eagles ended with a discombobulated four-and-out or an ill-advised sack or a brutal Trubisky interception, the young quarterback would have been blasted for the next six months, stalked through the offseason by questions about his ability and composure.
Instead? Trubisky offered evidence in a pressure-packed point of a huge game that he could rise to meet the moment. And late Sunday night and into Monday, it was evident in his teammates’ eyes just how important that was.
“It was fun to be out there with him,” Robinson said. “To see him handle his first playoff game was cool. This is what we all prepared for and this is what we’re all here for. … So for him to be able to make plays when we needed it was fun and exciting.”
Added guard Kyle Long: “If we’ve got the ball and we’ve got a chance to win, I know we’re going to go down the field and handle our business. And that starts with No. 10. … He’s a leader and he’s a heck of a football player. He’s the guy you want in your huddle in that situation.”
Nagy was in full agreement.
“Those are the moments you live for,” the coach said. “He did everything that we asked him to do. He made big throws with the big-time opportunities that he had.”
‘I’ve come a long way’
Still, as Trubisky trudged off Soldier Field, he left with the stadium scoreboard giving him plenty to file away for the offseason. Specifically, the Bears quarterback should have made sure the glowing “15” hovering above him was burned into his psyche. As in 15 points. As in not nearly enough. Not in a playoff game certainly. But not in most NFL games played in this pinball era either.
Only 15 times in 256 regular-season games this season did a team win when scoring 16 points or fewer. Trubisky and the Bears did it three times.