It's fourth down. The game is hanging in the balance with the Bears down by three and having less than 30 seconds to either send it to overtime, or go for the walk-off win. At their own 38, a Bears' victory against the rival Detroit Lions, or at least hope of victory, is hanging on by a thread. Insurmountable odds in an immeasurably high pressure situation for most starting NFL quarterbacks - especially of the rookie variety.
The play starts, Mitchell Trubisky drops back somehow simultaneously desperately looking for an open receiver while staying poised. No luck. He scrambles to his left looking for a target while making sure to keep his eyes downfield, to no avail. He moves right, making sure to stay in the confines of a safe pocket as Lions defenders attempt to close in on him. Of course, he deftly avoids them.
Still though, no one's open.
The entire time Trubisky is channeling his best "Matrix" moves, an anxious Soldier Field crowd is ebbing and flowing with roars of every Trubisky move as he plays with fire, and flirts with almost certain game-ending disaster. But the rookie face of the franchise is never phased, only laser focused on getting thirteen oh so precious yards. On extending his team a needed hand, a lifeline.
As Trubisky finishes working his way back to the middle of the field, a small seam of green grass opens up, a glimmer of light amidst what was mostly a frustratingly shrouded inconsistent game for the Bears as a whole. The quarterback has the legs to make the play in the teeth of the Detroit defense. He just has to actually make the play. He accelerates, breaks a tackle from a hustling Cornelius Washington and jukes past a helpless Miles Killebrew stuck in mud - past the first down marker.
Of course, the stadium and Trubisky's Bears teammates are blowing the lid off of an outdoor stadium at what the 23-year-old just did. Kyle Long, who was the first to greet the quarterback, was amazed but unsurprised at his late heroics.
“Just his poise, and sense of urgency, at the end of the game to have the wherewithal to make the throws he’s making. Obviously it’s not all perfect – he’s a young quarterback in the league – but he has the confidence and trust of the guys around him. And that’s a rare thing in this league to have," said Long.
Mitch Trubisky's 4th down conversion was ridiculous. pic.twitter.com/F3lmBMtaMX— Taylor Vippolis (@tvippolis) November 19, 2017
While everyone else and Long stood in relative awe, notice that Trubisky merely stands up, calmly nodding in a trance. As if he's silently saying, "no big deal", "I'm supposed to be here", or even "we still have work to do" already processing the next play after pulling off a miracle: the way the greats do.
Somehow, Trubisky did the impossible. Somehow, he was safe, giving the Bears a chance to do the unthinkable. But really, that's what a franchise quarterback does: the unthinkable.
On the very next play, Trubisky fires a rifle to new favorite target Dontrelle Inman, who was being guarded by one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in Darius Slay. A lockdown player.
It doesn't matter. Complete. The Bears are in field goal range and can theoretically go to overtime. All thanks to No. 10. Soldier Field, and a city, exhales.
Unfortunately, Trubisky can't do everyone's job. He can't get inside the mind of a kicker for a confidence boost or even make kicks himself. For as much as he can wave his increasingly powerful and metaphorical wand for some magic offensively, the game isn't always in his hands. In this one context of the 2017 Bears, it was on Connor Barth's leg. You know the rest.
Connor Barth with Bob Uecker just a bit outside. pic.twitter.com/02vbtkUskd— ⓂarcusD (@_MarcusD2_) November 19, 2017
Years from now, most will only remember Barth's egregious final miss. They’ll only see Lions 27, Bears 24. In fact, many will laugh.
But that will be a mistake. Because it'll be overlooking one of the very first occasions a budding star quarterback took matters into his own hands for his team, making a play only a few current signal callers could ever fathom to attempt. A franchise quarterback. A leader.
Trubisky's mad-dash but composed scramble, and on a grander scale, that entire final drive against Detroit, was made by his own mechanisms. Though his sheer force of will and refusing to shy away from the moment. This was Trubisky magic to the greatest degree.
Big time players make plays "when the lights come on", or better understood, when the game is on the line. While he has so much more to learn and refine to be the consistent superstar quarterback he may well become, there's no doubting that Trubisky is a big time player. His poise against adversity gave everyone a resounding vote of confidence on that note. Not that this is anything new to other Bears and head coach John Fox.
“... He’s a playmaker. He will still make some mistakes, and understandably so. But he’s just getting better, and he will continue to get better. No doubt about that," said Fox of Trubisky's late helter-skelter.
These are the kinds of special plays everyone figured to see from Trubisky when he first took the reins as the Bears' starter. This was why a franchise and fan base was reinvigorated with optimism. Because even when they're staring practically guaranteed defeat in the face, the Bears now have a quarterback who refuses to let go. Who never says die and can create a win out of thin air. Not exactly a common occurrence for this organization.
Trubisky is going to get better. Blitzes and exotic coverages won't fool him. He'll improve his pocket presence. In due time, he's going to grow up in the dramatic manner the Bears originally envisioned for him. As the Bears make necessary coaching changes in the off-season, revamp their roster, and upgrade Halas Hall both inside and out, so too will they be ready to support the top dog in the building. To reciprocate his ability and leadership.
Until then, the franchises' best hope in decades will continue to make everyone believers day-by-day as best as he can. To show them the path towards greatness. Just as Trubisky said he did by example on Sunday's final possession, with the weight of the Bears' world crumbling around him.
The legend grows.
"If you come in looking your guys in the eyes, and with confidence in what you say it makes a difference. You can say anything, but if you don’t come in with the right demeanor and truly believe it, then they’re not going to buy in. I’m very fortunate that the guys we have in the huddle are staying positive and buying in. They believe in me and I believe in them."
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron, and contributor to The Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.