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Biscuit Bowl, Tales from the Tape: Part 1

Mitchell Trubisky had a career high in pass attempts against the Saints with mixed results. The first half showed promise.

NFL: Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The opportunities have comes slowly for Mitchell Trubisky in his rookie year. Whether it was sitting on the bench behind Mike Glennon, or hiding behind a run-first (and second and third) offense, Mister Biscuit has spent much of his time waiting for opportunities to take his golden arm for a spin around the NFL field.

Meanwhile, since watching Trubisky dazzle the football world in his first preseason game, Bears fans have been waiting just as longingly for another taste of that first magic that had us skipping to work and singing in the shower for the first time in years.

The Bears Week 8 romp against the New Orleans Saints offered Trubisky the most opportunities to show off that golden arm of any game in his short career. Watching the game live, I felt a cautious optimism as I saw some good decisions and good throws. I also felt moments of concern when I saw some bad decisions and inaccurate throws. I left feeling pleased with the good, and telling myself the bad was nothing more than a few growing pains.

That feeling lasted for a few days before I couldn’t resist the urge to slink down to the film room, hunker over an old projector and sift through the reels of cumbersome all-22 game film to get a closer look and more informed opinion about the passingest game of Trubisky’s budding career.

For part one, I look at every pass play in the first half of this outing. I say “pass play” instead of “pass attempt” because on some of these plays, he didn’t attempt a pass (either because he was sacked or he scrambled) and because of I have a pizza bet with WCG fantasy expert Jeff Berckes on how many games it will take for Trubisky to get 100 pass attempts, and I don’t want him trying to claim that a sack or scramble is a pass attempt.

Here’s a chart of all of the Bears’ first half pass plays:

The stat line resulting from this is 7 of 12 for 112 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions.

At first glance, 58% completion percentage leaves a little to be desired, but nearly 10 yards per attempt is impressive, even without hitting the end zone.

At second glance, I would argue zero of his 5 incompletions were due to off-target passes.

One was batted, one was thrown to a point the receiver (Adam Shaheen) didn’t reach because he was jammed at the line of scrimmage, one was thrown away, and one fell short because Trubisky was hit during his release. The most concerning pass was an ill-advised throw into tight coverage to Tanner Gentry on a comeback route. My concern isn’t with the ball placement but the decision to throw. In this case, I think the time Trubisky spent with Gentry on the third-string squad caused him to overestimate Tanner’s ability to get open against NFL competition and he threw to a point assuming Gentry would be able to beat his defender.

If I’m being fair, since I pointed out that his incompletions were not off-target, I need to also point out that his completions were not all beautifully placed. A play action throw to Dion Sims was placed to Sims’ left while both Trubisky and Sims were running right. And an unpressured throw to a wide open Tre McBride was placed so high that McBride had to jump for it. It’s likely the later throw was partially due to QB and receiver being a little out of sync in terms of how the route would be run, but I wonder if seeing the wide open receiver caused Trubisky to force the ball too quickly over-eagerly trying to take advantage of the rare opportunity.

You read that right. I’m blaming Trubisky’s inaccuracy on the receiver being too open. Why can’t a Bears receiver just get medium open? If Goldilocks walked into this Bear house, she’d find Gentry too covered, McBride too open, but would anyone be just right?*

The sample size is here comically small, but I couldn’t help noticing some trends that are probably irresponsible to even mention given their statistical meaninglessness but I will recklessly highlight anyway:

First down success The first half of the Biscuit Bowl had 4 pass plays, one led to a 4 yard scramble, and the other 3 led to two completions for 58 yards. The nearly 20 yards per attempt is skewed by a long play to McBride, but straying from the Bears’ painfully predictable pattern of running on first down showed some promising early returns.

Potent drop-back attack? Trubisky only had 2 “drop back” plays, meaning under center snaps when he dropped back to pass rather than a play action or shotgun snap. Both of those led to completions, and the one 7-step drop led to a successful deep play. It’s nice to see Trubisky can execute these plays after all of the unnecessary concern about taking zero under-center snaps in college.

2nd or 3rd and long odds The first half had 5 passing plays called on either second or third down with 10 or more yards to go. The results? 1 completion for 12 yards. 2 incompletions, and 2 sacks. Throwing at second and third and long is a tough situation for any quarterback, and this early in his career, I’m not going to be too hard on Biscuit for his struggles here.

Overall, the first half showed some good decision making, and two beautiful throws hitting McBride and Wright in stride. At this point in my film review, I’m starting to feel a little of the Biscuit high coming back to me. This seems like a perfect time to pause my film review, close my eyes, and envision Trubisky signal-calling and pigskin-chucking with the best in the league for years to come...

*If you sense a missed opportunity here, it’s because I previously promised to stop making puns about Kendall Wright’s last name.