In the week leading up to the Bears' regular-season finale against the Vikings, coach Matt Nagy said that despite having a playoff spot already locked up, Chicago planned on playing its starters against the Vikings, though he did concede he might look to rest some players in the second half.
Such was not the case for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who played the entirety of the game to help the Bears to a 24-10 win over the Vikings in a momentum-building effort leading into the playoffs.
After the game, Trubisky — who finished 18-for-26 for 163 yards — took a moment to note just how far this Bears team has come from a year ago — a progression that's due in large part to Trubisky's own growth during the course of the season.
The Bears also finished the regular season last year on the road at Minnesota, losing to the Vikings to put a cap on a 5-11 season. A year later, Chicago was looking ahead to its first postseason since 2010 after ending the regular season with a win in Minnesota.
"Big turnaround from last year, being in this same locker room talking to you guys," Trubisky said in his press conference after the game. "So it feels great, but we also realize how we've got to this point. It's by taking care of the little things, taking care of each other, coming to work every day, loving what you do, love the guy next to you and just taking it one game, one day at a time. And then you just look back and you've got 12 wins, and you're playing at home in the playoffs, and we're excited for this next opportunity. If we just keep doing what we're doing, hopefully we can do something special and keep it rolling."
Trubisky's Week 17 performance was also a testament to his growth over just the past few weeks. When the Bears hosted the Vikings in Week 11, they came away with the victory despite going 6-for-12 on third downs and having three turnovers.
After that game, the second-year quarterback pledged to stay aggressive but admitted the team needed to be better at converting on third downs and he needed to do a better job protecting the ball.
Fast forward to the Bears' matchup with the Vikings on Sunday and Trubisky and the Bears followed through. The Bears went 8-for-14 on third-down conversions and for the third straight week, Trubisky was interception free.
"When you get into third down, that's the money down," Trubisky said. "You've got to convert, especially against a defense who's really good on third down. We know that, so for me it was just finding completions, moving the sticks."
The feat was even more impressive given that Trubisky did it without three of his top receivers for part of the second half. Allen Robinson II didn't play due to a rib injury. Anthony Miller left the game in the first quarter after suffering a left shoulder injury, and Taylor Gabriel left in the third quarter due to a shoulder injury.
The injuries to the trio forced the Bears to look for other options. Trubisky connected with rookie receiver Javon Wims four times for 32 yards. Wims entered the game still seeking his first career reception. Trubisky also found receiver Kevin White — who entered the game with just three catches this year — on a third-and-six play in the first quarter for a pickup of 22 yards.
"When you've got three of your top receivers out, new guys have to step in," Trubisky said. "It's a testament to how [Wims and White are] working in practice, just waiting for their the opportunity, and when their opportunity came they took full advantage."
The game showcased the type of mistake-free football that the Bears need from Trubisky as they ready to face the Eagles in the playoffs next Sunday.
For Trubisky, though, the game showed off more than his own growth. It was an exhibit of the mentality of this team — one that left it all on the field for 60 minutes despite already having the playoffs locked up.
"Every time we step on the field we want to win," Trubisky said. "I think it just shows the maturity on this team that we weren't looking ahead. We weren't thinking about sitting out. We just do exactly what's asked for us, and when you strap it on, when you put that Bears jersey on, you're only thinking about one thing now and that's going out there, competing and trying to win. So I think it was important that we were just focused on the main thing and that's just playing one snap at a time and doing the best we can."
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