For three quarters of the Chicago Bears’ Week 1 game, I saw the same Mitchell Trubisky that was in hot water all season long in 2019: the quarterback who locks on to one wide receiver, wishes him open, then watches his guy knock the ball away from the defender.
This kind of QB play dug Chicago into a 23-6 hole at the start of the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions — and surely no one honestly thought Trubisky and the Bears’ offense, a unit that converted one of nine third downs up to that point, could string together a late comeback. But to Trubisky’s credit, he was better going through his reads and strung some nice throws together. Making better decisions and delivering a more accurate ball was the difference in completing eight of 10 passes for 89 yards, three TDs and a 143.3 passer rating in the fourth quarter, as opposed to going 12-of-26 for 153 yards and a 65.1 passer rating through three quarters. And it also helped the Bears score 21 unanswered points to defeat the Lions and begin the 2020 season 1-0. (A thank you to D’Andre Swift is also in order, Bears fans.)
The real question is: How can Trubisky capture that fourth-quarter success for an entire game?
When I watched the All-22 Coaches Film, one thing stood out more than what I saw from Trubisky in the fourth quarter (when he showed a slight improvement as a passer). It was something I didn’t see, the single biggest omission from the Bears’ offensive game plan, a flaw that will leave the QB at a disadvantage if it goes unaddressed: Trubisky wasn’t involved in the run game at all.
He had three total carries — a QB sneak for no gain on the first drive of the game and a pair of QB scrambles in the second half (one for 6 yards, another for 20). There were zero designed runs for a quarterback who excels as a runner. To make matters worse for Trubisky, there were only two plays in which the Bears moved the pocket off play-action — including the Bears’ first pass play of the game (the Lions were all over it). Otherwise, Chicago ran play-action primarily to secure protection for Trubisky while he remained stationary in the pocket.
It makes zero sense. Trubisky is a much better quarterback when he’s able to move freely in the pocket and use his legs as a rusher. This would have been especially true against a Lions defense that played a ton of man coverage, challenging Bears wideouts to create separation and Trubisky to make throws. Ultimately, the offensive game plan we saw from head coach Matt Nagy on Sunday is more suited for pocket passer Nick Foles, who lost the QB1 job to Trubisky in training camp. The former Super Bowl MVP excels at reading defenses, going through reads and making (mostly) accurate throws. With Trubisky, Nagy must revert to what worked in 2018: During the former No. 2 overall most successful campaign, nearly half of Trubisky’s 70 rushing attempts were designed runs.
The Bears’ failure to exploit Trubisky’s strengths as a runner is head-scratching. The strides he’s made in the passing game — yes, he did miss some throws Sunday, but he was still improved from last season — are positive, but Nagy has to create some offensive help schematically for his young quarterback. If the play-caller refuses to marry his game plan to the quarterback on the field, the Bears won’t continue to end up on the right side of the scoreboard going forward.
Top 15 Offensive Players
Entering the 2020 NFL season, former No. 1 overall pick and NFL Network analyst David Carr takes a look at all offensive players and ranks his top 15. For the first quarter of the season, the rankings are based on a combination of:
1) Player accomplishments from the 2019 season.
2) Weekly performances, factoring in strength of opponent.
Rankings will be solely judged on this season’s efforts following Week 4. Arrows reflect changes from Week 1. Heading into Week 2, here is Carr’s list:
The reigning Super Bowl MVP kept his stellar 2020 going with a dominant 34-20 win over Houston to kick off the season. It was obvious the altered offseason didn’t affect the passer, as he threw three TDs, one each to three different pass-catchers. There’s not much Mahomes hasn’t done in his two years as the Chiefs’ starting quarterback, and with his most talented supporting cast yet, we’re bound to see more highlight-reel plays and records fall.
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ offense often have slow starts to the season, but that couldn’t be further from what we saw Sunday in Atlanta. For starters, Wilson’s passer rating (143.1) was 51.5 points higher than his Week 1 average from 2012 to ’19 (91.6). Wilson looked like a man on an MVP mission from beginning to end, completing his first 12 pass attempts to open the game and finishing 31-of-35 for 322 yards and four TD passes. According to Elias, Wilson’s 35 pass attempts tied the record for most pass attempts in a game in which the quarterback finished with at least as many pass touchdowns as he did incompletions — joining Drew Brees (2011 vs. Colts) and Tom Brady (2014 vs. Bears) as the only others to do so.
Let’s start and finish with this note from NFL Reseachers: Jackson is the first player since at least 1950 to have a 150-plus passer rating in multiple Week 1 games in his career (min. 20 pass attempts in each game). He posted a perfect 158.3 passer rating in Week 1 last season at the Dolphins, then had a 152.1 passer rating Sunday vs. the Browns. Over the last two seasons, Jackson has eight pass touchdowns and eight incompletions in Week 1. … I think Lamar has an MVP repeat on his mind.
McCaffrey picked up where he left off as the ultimate offensive weapon, scoring twice and gaining 96 yards on 23 carries. I was a little surprised he wasn’t more involved in the pass game; the running back who caught 116 passes for 1,005 yards last season was targeted by Teddy Bridgewater just four times vs. the Raiders. That should change.
No duo was more in sync in Week 1 than Adams and Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay’s WR1 made everything look effortless against Minnesota’s young cornerbacks, including this insane touchdown reception right before the half. Adams finished with 14 receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns in Green Bay’s convincing win at U.S. Bank.
There wasn’t much Rodgers couldn’t do Sunday against the Vikings. He sliced and diced the rival’s young cornerbacks — Marquez Valdes-Scantling even left a few BIG plays out there — for 364 yards and four touchdowns. Rodgers looks as good as he’s ever been. And to make Sunday’s victory a little sweeter, Rodgers passed Hall of Famer and Vikings legend Fran Tarkenton for 12th on the NFL’s all-time passing yards list. Anyone who was wondering whether the Packers drafting Jordan Love was going to be an issue for Rodgers got their answer.
Even with Dallas’ triple threat in the passing game, I was happy to see Mike McCarthy’s unit run through Zeke against the Rams on Sunday. He showed versatility as a dynamic runner and chipped in with some big gains as a pass catcher. Finishing with 127 scrimmage yards and two TDs (one rushing, one receiving), Zeke’s off to a good start.
Jones looked like a man among boys against Seattle’s secondary. Every time I looked up, he was hauling in a phenomenal catch to continue a Falcons drive. The Falcons struggled to get in the end zone — this is consistent with a knock against Jones, who has not been a scoring machine during his career — but the veteran receiver is already well on his way to another 1,400-yard season after putting up 157 yards on nine receptions.
Hopkins’ relocation from the Texans to the Cardinals was one of the more intriguing moves of the offseason (second to Tom Brady’s), and what an impact he had on Arizona’s offense in his debut. Logging 151 yards on 14 receptions, Hopkins took Kliff Kingsbury’s offense to another level and made the 49ers’ defense, which helped pave the team’s path to Super Bowl LIV a season ago, look pedestrian for most of Sunday’s divisional tilt.
Thomas suffered a high ankle injury against the Bucs on Sunday, which could be why he had just three receptions for 17 yards on just five targets — his lowest output since Week 5 of 2017, when he had three catches for 11 yards on six targets vs. the Lions. It’ll be painful, but Thomas believes he can play through the injury. This is definitely something to watch moving forward.
Kittle’s injury (to his left knee on a hard hit from Cardinals safety Budda Baker) that occurred with 44 seconds remaining in the first half was the start of Jimmy Garoppolo’s struggles. Prior to Kittle’s injury, Garoppolo completed 10 of 15 passes for 168 yards, one TD and a 126.5 passer rating. After the injury, though, the 49ers’ QB went 9-of-18 for 91 yards, one TD and an 83.3 rating. Jimmy G’s stats confirm what we all knew about the kind of impact a healthy Kittle, who did play in the second half but wasn’t targeted, has. Like Thomas in New Orleans, this will be something to monitor.
There’s a good chance Kelce’s production might dip this season (six catches for 50 yards and one TD on six targets vs. Houston), as the Chiefs have an even more loaded offense than they did a year ago (hello, Clyde Edwards-Helaire). However, it’s his impact and the attention defenses must give him that opens opportunity for guys like Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson.
Watching the Giants’ offensive line was rough on Monday night. Barkley is one of the most talented skill players in the league, and yet, he can’t even get to the line of scrimmage (15 carries for 6 yards) because the line is a sieve. The passing game (with Barkley) showed life at times, but it’s going to be a long season if Jason Garrett doesn’t figure out how to run the ball.
The second-year running back picked up right where his 2019 campaign left off. Coming off a monster rookie season (1,150 rush yards, seven rush TDs), Jacobs recorded one of his best performances with a career-high three rushing TDs in Week 1 against Carolina. He’s a huge asset for a young Raiders offense on the rise.
Mixon and the Bengals’ offense couldn’t find any sort of consistency against the Chargers, with penalties and crucial turnovers (and that dreadful missed field goal) serving as their undoing. One of those turnovers was a fumble by Mixon — his first since Week 17 of 2017 (his rookie season). The Bengals will go through the offensive growing pains that come with having a rookie quarterback, so they’ve got to find a way to get Mixon in rhythm early.
Dropping out: Darren Waller, TE, Raiders (previously No. 14)
Follow David Carr on Twitter @DCarr8
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