By Chris Emma—
CHICAGO (670 The Score) – Tucked away in the southeast corner of Soldier Field were some diehard Bears fans willing to stick out the cold and snow on Christmas Eve on Sunday and watch the waning moments of victory.
They wore jerseys of Fridge and Forte, Hester and Hampton – all links to the past – and shivered away for a 20-3 win over the winless Browns. Perhaps come Christmas Day, some will open a new jersey left under the tree with Bears rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s name and number on the back.
For as bad as it has been in this lost season, the Bears aren’t the Browns, a collection of incompetence with too many to blame. The Browns will go into yet another offseason still looking for their quarterback, while the Bears seem to have their leader in Trubisky.
Trubisky was efficient in dashing the Bears through the snow, finishing 14-of-23 for 193 yards while adding 44 yards and a score on the ground. He protected the football, went through his progressions and played a sound game of football. It marked another step forward for him.
Meanwhile, DeShone Kizer looked like so many of his Browns predecessors, going 18-of-36 for 182 yards and two interceptions. New general manager John Dorsey can begin making his plans for the top overall pick after the Browns clinched it Sunday. They’re now a loss away from joining the 2008 Lions in infamous company at 0-16.
The Browns passed on Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson before selecting Kizer 52nd overall last April. They drafted defensive end Myles Garrett first overall, traded out of the 12th pick – where the Texans took Watson – and then drafted safety Jabrill Peppers and tight end David Njoku to cap the first round. Executive Sashi Brown, who didn’t prioritize the most important position in sports, was fired two weeks ago.
Credit Bears general manager Ryan Pace for ensuring Trubisky would be his quarterback – risking his reputation and job on the 23-year-old northern Ohio native. The Bears have that going for them, and it’s why they’re not the Browns.
“To play in the snow on Christmas Eve against your hometown team, that’s kind of a dream come true,” Trubisky said after the game.
It easily could’ve been a blue Christmas in Chicago after Garrett had a pick-six on a tipped Trubisky pass, but Carl Nassib did what could best be described as Browns-ing by lining up offsides. Trubisky said it was the right read but Garrett just made a play, so he gathered the offense. Second life. Here we go.
“All the guys kind of rallied around that,” Trubisky said.
From there, Trubisky changed the game. On third-and-6 from the Bears’ 44-yard line, Trubisky fooled the Browns with his footwork and had them bite on a screen pass. Benny Cunningham hauled it in and took it 40 yards down the sidelines. One play later, Jordan Howard scampered 16 yards for a touchdown and put the game out of reach.
The screen pass was part of a halftime adjustment by Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, who was looking to exploit the blitzing Browns defense of Gregg Williams. Trubisky executed it to perfection, and the Browns are simply not good enough to sniff it out.
On Wednesday, Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks promised that his team wouldn’t lose to the Browns. It was something defensive coordinator Vic Fangio reminded him and the unit of leading up to the game.
The Bears (5-10) defense backed Hicks and his word, putting together an impressive performance. They were prepared for Kizer to use his mobility and take chances. Their preparation was rewarded, with Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan each making interceptions off the risky Kizer. It would’ve been a shutout if Browns kicker Zane Gonzalez left his second-quarter field goal a foot shorter.
When the day was done, the Bears had forced four turnovers.
“We definitely felt confident coming in that there would be a lot of opportunities to get some takeaways,” Fuller said. “We got some today.”
After delivering the stops, the Bears defense returned to the sidelines and watched Trubisky lead the offense. Hicks said he could see the confidence in Trubisky just by observing.
Trubisky surpassed Kyle Orton for the Bears’ rookie passing record, but the numbers don’t tell the tale of his first season in the NFL. What will define 2017 for Trubisky is the way he grew as a quarterback. He settled into a pro-style offense, adapted to the speed and timing of this game and gained confidence with each week.
Though this has been a challenging season in Chicago – one to likely bring a coaching change in a week – those braving the elements at Soldier Field could warm up with the hopes of what Trubisky can become. The Bears are far ahead of the Browns because they have a young quarterback blossoming with each game.
They delivered an early Christmas gift for those that stuck out a frigid afternoon at snowy Soldier Field.
“I enjoyed every moment,” Trubisky said. “I soaked it in with all my teammates. It’s just great to get a team win today.”