The night before the Bears' Week 16 contest versus the Cleveland Browns, running back Benny Cunningham stood up at the team hotel and addressed his teammates.
The topic of Cunningham's talk was about the difference between a clock and an hourglass. Both are used to measure time, but they are done in different ways. A clock measures how much time has elapsed; an hourglass measures how much time is remaining. Cunningham wanted everyone in the room to know that this season's hourglass was on its final specs of sand, and that the 2017 Bears should savor every remaining moment they are together.
For Mitchell Trubisky, the expiration of the hourglass represents the conclusion to a rookie season that flashed hints to how good of a quarterback he could be, and also displayed how much he still needs to develop at the position. There have been highs and lows, as is the case with every first-year player. On Sunday afternoon against the Browns, Trubisky looked to go out on a high note, displaying all the physical traits that make him, his teammates and the entire Bears organization excited about what is to come moving forward.
He did exactly that. Trubisky rushed for 44 yards and a touchdown and had 193 passing yards, guiding the Bears to an impressive 20-3 victory at Soldier Field in the team's home finale. The hourglass finishes falling next Sunday when the regular season wraps up in Minnesota.
"He played with poise," receiver Josh Bellamy said of Trubisky. "He played great—he always plays like that. When you just let him take the wheel, when you let him do his thing, he's a playmaker, he's an athlete, you can see what he can do with his legs. He can run the ball. He can throw the ball. He's a great quarterback. He'll be real good."
Trubisky was pressured early on Sunday, as the Cleveland defense made it a priority to attack the young signal-caller. With so many blitzes coming from all different angles, the quarterback's ability to buy time with his feet became vital. Though he took three sacks before halftime, Trubisky rushed for 40 rushing yards in that time period, including runs for 14 and 11 yards that extended drives.
The Browns kept blitzing after halftime, but this time the Bears had a plan for it. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains called for screen passes that caught the Cleveland defenders out of position. With Trubisky's ability to run in the back of their mind, Browns players were stuck in no-man's land, unsure if they should charge the quarterback only to have the ball thrown over their heads or stay back and potentially let Trubisky run. The screens worked perfectly in the third quarter, as the quarterback hit Cunningham for gains of 40 and 22 yards and Tarik Cohen for a pickup of 13. All three plays extended drives that resulted in Chicago touchdowns.
"That was a great adjustment by the coaching staff," Cunningham said. "Obviously we had seen what (the Browns) were doing in the first half, especially with the conditions they wanted to stop the run game and force us to throw. … Mitch is growing, his leadership is continuing to grow. I feel like he did a good job this game, so I'm excited to see what he can continue to be in this league."
Once the Bears had Cleveland looking for screens, Trubisky went back to beating them with his legs. On second-and-goal from the 4, Loggins called a run-pass option that asks the rookie quarterback to read the defense and react accordingly. Had the Browns loaded the box near the line of scrimmage, Trubisky would have thrown to a receiver on the outside. But instead the box had just five guys, meaning Chicago's offensive line could block every rusher. That gave Trubisky the opening he needed to run in for the score.
Trubisky was going to let Cody Whitehair spike the ball as a gift—it is the holiday season, after all—but the right guard was still in aq pile once the rookie made it into the end zone. Instead, Bellamy told Trubisky the whole team was going to make snow angels, and the quarterback joined in.
"I wasn't doing anything," Trubisky said with a smile after the game. "So I fell back and did that. It was funny."
Trubisky has one more game to go in his rookie season, before the 2017 hourglass stops once and for all. But after he had walked off the Soldier Field turf for the final time as a rookie, with the snow falling around him, the Mentor, Ohio, native reflected on his debut season and the win against his local team.
"It was cool to see," Trubisky said. "To play in the snow on Christmas Eve against your hometown team, it's kind of a dream come true. It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed every moment. I soaked it in with my teammates after a great team win today. Those are the moments you look forward to."