The Patriots have a football duo that's dominated over the past two decades in coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. The two are in their 19th season together with New England and have produced eight AFC titles and five Super Bowl championships in that span.
But on Sunday, second-year Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and first-year head coach Matt Nagy had the veteran pair holding their collective breath right until the clock hit zeroes.
With two seconds left in the fourth quarter, Trubisky took a shotgun snap, waited in the pocket, made a move to his left, and heaved a pass to receiver Kevin White at the one-yard line. White tried to push forward to break the goal line, but the Patriots swarmed, and White went down just short of the end zone.
Instead of a dramatic game-tying score at the end of regulation, New England just held on, edging Chicago, 38-31, in their first matchup since 2014. It was a back-and-forth showdown between two of the most storied franchises in the league, and it showed that Trubisky, playing in just his 17th NFL game, could go toe-to-toe with a future Hall of Fame quarterback for four quarters.
While the loss stings, Trubisky noted it's a good measuring stick for how far this team has come and proves they can compete with any team in the NFL.
"[The Patriots are] always in the playoffs, always competing for Super Bowls," Trubisky said. "To go down to the wire with a team like that, you can kind of see where we're at as a team. ... We have a good idea that we can play with anybody when we're playing well, and when we're playing even better then we can beat teams like that."
Up until the final play, the Bears had gone back and forth with the Patriots, erasing an early 7-0 deficit and then jumping out to a 10-point lead early in the second quarter before New England rallied back to take a 21-17 lead into halftime.
The Bears' first touchdown came courtesy of Trubisky's feet. On paper, it went down as an eight-yard rush, but in reality, Trubisky covered closer to 50 yards of net distance.
On a third-and-six play, Trubisky dropped back and then scrambled to his right to avoid two on-coming Patriots defenders. He spun to his right and circled back all the way to the 30 yard line before picking up a convoy of blockers in Charles Leno Jr and Cody Whitehair en route to the score.
"They dropped out down in the red zone, played a little shell coverage and took away my first three options," Trubisky said of the wild play after the game. "So I started to move to buy some time, and then I decided to spin around and see what I could see on the other side, and nothing was there. They just kept dropping out, and Cody was kind of leading the way in front, and I just decided I'm just going to follow him, and he cleared the way for me, and I was able to walk in."
It was one of six rushes on the day that netted Trubisky a game-high 81 rush yards. Prior to Sunday he'd never rushed for more than 53 yards in a game. The second-year quarterback said it wasn't part of the game plan, but he saw opportunities and took advantage.
"You just come out being aggressive," Trubisky said. "But nobody was accounting for me early, so I just wanted to be aggressive with my feet and make them pay, and it's all about just picking up first downs for this offense and moving the chains. You never plan to run like that, and you just try to get better and better and do what you can for the offense."
The fact that the Bears were in it until the end will surprise only those who haven't been following the team closely this season. The offense has a new look than years past and knows it can play with anyone. While signs of progression and growth were obvious in the game – in their last two matchups with the Patriots the Bears were outscored 87-30 – Trubisky isn't satisfied with just keeping it close.
"Close doesn't cut it," Trubisky said. "There's a new standard here, and coming up one yard short and not tying the game and going into overtime, that's not good enough anymore. We've got to make the plays throughout the game that not only give us a chance to win but we're wiping teams off the field. We take a lot of pride in protecting Soldier Field, and we didn't do that today."