This was the game Mitchell Trubisky needed.
Okay, so it didn’t have to be six-touchdown good, but after failing to show much improvement through the first three weeks of the season, the second-year quarterback was under pressure to break through.
His six touchdown throws – including five in the first half – were one shy of the NFL record, while his 354 yards came on just 19-of-26 completions for a passer rating of 154.6.
Matt Nagy’s game plan and play-calling couldn’t have put Trubisky in a better position to succeed as the 24-year-old had throwing windows with acres of space. Bears receivers were seemingly open every dropback as the scheme completely befuddled Tampa Bay and kept them guessing.
The Buccaneers defence also came into the game ripe for picking, allowing 433.3 yards and 34.7 points per game after the first three weeks, which is why it was almost a now-or-never moment for Trubisky.
But he still had to make the throws and show signs of development – something that was missing in the past three games when his eyes were quick to drop and he would impatiently abandon the pocket. On Sunday, Trubisky confidently scanned the field and waited for receivers to come open, and the results were telling.
Trubisky may not have a better game all season as Sunday was a perfect storm of ideal scheme and opponent, but at least Chicago now know he has it in him and is trending in the right direction.
Combined with their dominant defence, it’s a recipe that could make the Bears legitimate contenders this season.
Here are other takeaways from Week 4.
PATS REASSERT DOMINANCE
Entering the week, Sunday was important for both the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins, with the former eager to break out of a funk and the latter hoping to wrest control of the AFC East.
Somewhat predictably, the Patriots looked like themselves again with a 38-7 trashing at home to quell concerns and get back on track.
New England certainly played well, but it’s not as if they made massive changes from the previous two weeks when they were steamrolled by the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions. It was a case of better execution on both sides of the ball, and they were also helped by Miami having a stinker.
Tom Brady was far from perfect, but the running game dictated everything and kept the chains moving, while the defence was arguably more encouraging as they shut down Ryan Tannehill and weren’t beaten by the Dolphins’ trickery and gadget plays.
As much as a bounce-back was expected from the Patriots, it was a missed opportunity for Miami to deliver a knockout blow and prove they’re the division’s new kings.
THOMAS HARD DONE
This is exactly why Earl Thomas was sitting out practices.
The Seattle Seahawks star safety had his worst fears come true in the 20-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals when he suffered a lower left leg fracture to end his season.
The good news is Thomas’ break is reportedly clean and features no ligament damage or displacement, meaning he should be back to full strength by the Super Bowl – which the Seahawks are extremely unlikely to reach.
Still, this just further validates Thomas’ approach of leveraging his position to earn a new long-term contract.
Thomas has received criticism for taking his unrelenting stance, but it makes no sense to blame players when they’re putting their livelihood at stake every week without the safety net of a deal.
Seeing Thomas go down may not change Le’Veon Bell’s plans, but if the Pittsburgh Steelers running back had any doubts over his holdout, they’re probably squashed today.
It’s another reminder of how cruel and unfair this business can be.
Don’t look now but the Tennessee Titans are 3-1 and appearing dangerous.
For the third week in a row, they won a game they probably had no business winning, but it’s time to accept the Titans aren’t just getting lucky.
These clutch wins show resolve and mental toughness, and the past two have also come against Jacksonville and Philadelphia, two of the better teams in the league.
On Sunday, their offence finally found a rhythm as Marcus Mariota carved up the Eagles for 344 yards in a game their run game was nonexistent.
It should be a scary thought for the rest of the AFC that they’ve won three of four so far without putting together a complete performance.
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