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Biscuit Bowl, Tales from the Tape: Part Two

The second half of Trubisky’s passingest games provided the young gunslinger a lot of learning opportunities

NFL: Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The day Bears fans across the world have been waiting for has come. It seems like the wait has taken forever, but it will be worth it. Today you finally get to read part two of my Biscuit Bowl tape review. Also, the Bears are favored against the Packers and have a good chance to humiliate them which means I need to slip this in before nobody cares about what Trubisky did against the Saints two weeks ago before the bye.

In broad strokes, Trubisky’s second half performance paints a gruesome picture. His pass attempts went 8 of 21 for just 77 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. And that’s not even the official stat line because it includes the 25 yard touchdown to Zach Miller (because it was a catch). Without the Miller TD, it drops to 7 of 21 for 52 yards and an interception. If you remember your times tables, that’s a 1 in 3 completion percentage. Yikes.

That line does sell Trubisky a little short because it doesn’t count his 49 rushing yards. 126 quarterback yards in a half isn’t a terrible number (again, Miller did catch that ball) but this half of quarterbacking reveals a sizable helping of room to grow for Trubisky. Which is frankly inexcusible considering he already had 13 college starts and 3 weeks of first-team NFL experience to learn from.

Here’s a chart of every play in the second half:

Even after watching the game and reading the stat line. It’s hard not to be struck by the incessant nagging repetition of the word “incomplete” in the result column. Watching this game live, I remember seeing a lot of balls that seemed inexplicably off target. Taking a closer look at the tape, most of these incompletions are at least softly explicable.

Drops accounted for two of these incompletions. There was one throw-away. Trubisky was hit during one throw and hurried on a couple others. Other balls were batted or simply failed attempts to force a ball into tight coverage.

Of the passes that were off-target, I noticed a trend that I will hypothesize traces back to the traumatic first interception of Trubisky’s fledgling career. On that play, Trubisky forced a ball to (touchdown catcher) Zach Miller with Harrison Smith in deceptively-loose underneath coverage. Smith of course pounced on the ball, winning the game for the Vikings and giving Trubisky at least a mild case of PHSD (post Harrison Smith disorder).

Since that fateful day, Trubisky has frequently sailed balls when throwing past an underneath defender. Trubisky is still learning what he can get away with against NFL defenders. And frankly, I think the Harrison Smith incident has caused him to overestimate the average defender. According to an exaggeration of a vague memory I have of a PFF infographic, Harrison Smith is the best secondary defender in the NFL.

Ironically, the most dramatic example of PHSD in this game is the overthrow to McBride that resulted in Trubisky’s second game-ending interception. This may be a good thing. If Trubisky catches a small case of post Marshon Lattimore disorder, the desire to underthrow may perfectly balance the PHSD overthrow bias.

Receivers didn’t always help Trubisky in this game. Besides the drops, there were plenty of times where receivers failed to beat one-on-one coverage. Tanner Gentry in particular could rarely be found open in the all-22 film. I think he’s a talented receiver and wish him the best, but he’s not able to separate against NFL starters at this point in his career.

Having said that, there were more plays with at least one open receiver than I thought (roughly 80%). A couple of times where Trubisky missed an open receiver—Wright was open on his throw away and Cohen was wide open when he threw a short check-down to Sims—but not more than I can excuse considering I don’t know what his read progression was supposed to be. Overall, watching this film made me more optimistic that after replacing Gentry with Inman, there will be plenty of open windows for Trubisky to feast on moving forward.

Remember when I prematurely pointed out some low-sample-size trends in part one of this film review? Yeah. Those didn’t pan out.

1st down attempts were thoroughly fruitless in the second half. On 7 first down pass plays, Trubisky went a horrifying 1 for 6 for 0 yards. The 7th play was a three yard scramble. Some credit goes to the Dennis Allen and the Saints who made adjustments after giving up 58 yards on three first down attempts in the first half, and likely some of the blame goes to Dowell Loggains for being too predictable in his personnel/play-calling combinations, but I will admit I probably jumped the gun when observing that 1st down pass plays were an offensive goldmine.

The opposite is true for plays on 2nd or 3rd and long, where in the second half Trubisky went 5 for 8 for 60 yards, a touchdown, and let’s ignore the interception. I’m happy to see that trend reverse, and it’s not surprising since Trubisky has been able to make plays consistently in the most harrowing of down and distance situations.

Overall, there were a lot of misses in this half, but each seems understandable and forgivable when you consider Trubisky is an exceptionally-inexperienced rookie learning on the job. I can honestly say nothing I saw on this tape made me worry about his long term potential.

Whether it’s a spectacular breakout or more bumps on this rocky road to hyper-elite superstardom, I’m anxiously looking forward to seeing what Trubisky does today after a bye week of preparation and with all of the pressure of a city’s pride in a decades-long rivalry weighing down upon him.