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Inside Slant: Red zone woes hurt Bears in loss

Posted Dec 31, 2017

Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky struggled on Sunday in the red zone, so that will be a top priority of his this offseason.

At some point in the first week of 2018, Mitchell Trubisky will sit down and map out his offseason plan. The Bears quarterback knows there are areas of his game he must improve upon after starting 12 games as a rookie, so he wants to create a list of items that need development and go through them one by one over the next six months.

When training camp rolls around next summer, the rookie label will come off Trubisky and higher expectations will be placed on his shoulders. He's doing everything possible to be prepared.

The first task on Trubisky's to-do list is studying his red zone performance. That item was added to the list on Sunday, when the Bears struggled to turn opportunities into points in a 23-10 loss to the NFC North champion Vikings. Trubisky knows that if the Chicago offense is going to take the next step forward in 2018, he must do better inside the opponents' 20-yard line.

"I think I got better each week," Trubisky said following the regular season finale. "I'm still finding things I could get better at each week, so this week, even though it's offseason, I'm going to study red zone even more to find out how I can improve in the red zone. You always find out from each game what you did well and what you need to work on. So I'm going to go back through all the games and continue to look at those things. I feel good; I just got more comfortable as the weeks went on, just playing my game, being the leader of this team and helping the offense grow and get better."

Versus Minnesota, Trubisky completed 56 percent of his passes, but it was the ones he didn't hit that cost the Bears. Twice in the fourth quarter, Chicago had the ball inside the Vikings' 10-yard line, looking to close the gap on the scoreboard. Instead, the Bears walked away with no points on those two drives. The swarming Minnesota defense took away everything the Bears tried to do, and the team's inability to execute when in scoring position proved to be decisive in the end.

Trubisky entered the game having thrown just 10 passes all season inside opponents' 10-yard line. Four of them were completed, and all four of those went for touchdowns. In the fourth quarter on Sunday alone, Trubisky threw nine passes from inside the Minnesota 10. He completed just three of them, for seven total yards and no touchdowns. Tarik Cohen got the closest to scoring, but on a fourth-and-goal from the Vikings' 2-yard line with just over two minutes to go, Trubisky's shovel pass to the running back was just short of the goal line, and Cohen was tackled at the 1. It was the final offensive snap of the Chicago season.

"(Minnesota has) a good defense," the quarterback said of the red zone woes. "They out-executed us down there, and when we get down there we just got to take advantage, lock in because everything moves a little faster. Part of that falls on me, I just have to be more prepared and study even more for the red zone so I can play faster."

Following the game, the quarterback was asked if he had always planned to make red zone efficiency the first subject he tackled this offseason, or if Sunday's struggles were the reason it became a top priority.

"Well I'm going to go back and look at everything that happened this year, but because I didn't do well in the red zone (on Sunday)," Trubisky said. "There will be a lot more things that I look at and say, ‘This is what I did well, continue to do those things. This is what I need to improve upon.' And in the offseason it will get corrected, and it starts this week."

The Bears won't play another regular season game until September, but preparations for that contest begin this week. Trubisky has learned his lessons from 2017, and is striving to improve upon that in the new year.