With the Bears' 20-13 win against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was relieved of some of the weight he's had to carry for the last month.
The Bears' four-game losing streak is over. Trubisky threw his first non-garbage time touchdown since mid-September, then went back for more in the next two drives.
"When you go through tough things," said Trubisky, "I think you've just got to remember why you play this game. You just love to play this game, and you love the guys you play with. That'll get you through anything, and just continue to stick together, feed off your teammates, and believe that you're going to have a breakthrough, and whether you describe today as a breakthrough or not, we got the win."
For most of the first half, the term breakthrough didn't seem like a possibility. The offense sputtered, echoing last week's performance, with four straight punts and a six-point deficit. Something seemed to click in the final minutes of the second quarter, however.
Trubisky added one more data point to the growing phenomenon of the third-year quarterback transforming during a time crunch. Trubisky offered his thoughts as to why he seems to outperform his priors when the tempo picks up, as seen against the Broncos and Chargers earlier this season.
"I think when the call is coming fast, and we have the right personnel in the huddle, and we're not substituting a bunch of guys, we're able to play fast," said Trubisky. "I think that's when we're not thinking as much. We just go out there, execute the plays and guys are in the right spot at the right time, and we're just out there making plays."
Trubisky entered the final drive of the half having completed 3 of 6 passes for a mere 15 yards. Faced with the opportunity to go into halftime with a lead, Trubisky completed 7 of 8 passes, totaling 66 yards, as the Bears marched from their own 20 to the end zone.
To cap it off, Trubisky found tight end Ben Braunecker on a corner route for an 18-yard touchdown, the first of Braunecker's career.
"It was great," said Braunecker. "It was right where I wanted it. It was a pretty difficult catch, a lot harder than I imagined it was going to be. But I was very relieved to secure that and make the play."
Running back Tarik Cohen credited the Braunecker catch for igniting the offense, which entered the third quarter receiving the ball and repeating the efficiency of the previous drive. From nine yards out, Trubisky found Cohen in the flat, allowing the running back to race down the sideline for a second score.
"The coaches schemed up," said Cohen, "and we know they play a lot of man. Everybody executed on what the play was supposed to be, and it happened."
After an interception by linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski put the Bears deep in Lions' territory, Trubisky found the end zone yet again, this time to receiver Taylor Gabriel from 24 yards out. Gabriel said that the Bears had run the same play in practice all week to great success, though the Lions came out with different coverage than expected. When Gabriel broke free, he could feel the touchdown coming.
"Like, man, where's the ball?" said Gabriel. "You see the ball in there. You just want to make a big play for your guys. At the end of the day, the quarterback made an amazing throw."
Nagy credited Trubisky with mental fortitude and refusing to let the early struggles swallow the offense.
After going through TV footage with Nagy two weeks ago to analyze his body language, Trubisky seems to have taken to heart the sentiment that the team will follow his lead, for better or worse.
"I think the guys feed off how I react," said Trubisky, "my body demeanor and everything like that, and just communicating on the sidelines. Letting the guys know we're close."
While Trubisky looks to lead, he found strength in the team's reconfigured offensive line, which switched Cody Whitehair to center and James Daniels to guard. Whitehair built a strong relationship with Trubisky as the Bears' center for the past two seasons, and his return to the position, while showing some rust, helped Trubisky settle in.
"He's really good with communicating," said Trubisky, "helping those young guys to the sides of him now, and we have really good chemistry, me and him. So, he gives me confidence, and we've just got to keep feeding off that."
All parties noted that the Bears still have much to prove and little room for error in the next seven weeks. The offense trailed off in the fourth quarter, and Trubisky finished with only 173 passing yards. Still, Trubisky and the Bears were able to walk off the field Sunday as winners. That's a start.