After being heavily scrutinized for struggling in three games, Trubisky experienced a breakout type of game by throwing six touchdown passes Sunday against the beleaguered Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense in a 48-10 victory at Soldier Field.
“I never set out to break any records or do anything like that,” Trubisky said. “It was just a great team win, great team execution, and the defense played lights out. It also takes the pressure off of them to put some points on the board.”
The offense had struggled during the Bears’ 2-1 start, but Trubisky’s five first-half scoring passes were the first time a Bears quarterback ever accomplished this. It tied Johnny Lujack’s 1949 accomplishment of six touchdown passes, and was one short of Sid Luckman’s record seven set in 1943.
Each of the five went to a different receiver.
“When all 11 guys are on the same page and you start to see things clicking, that was the kind of a breakthrough that we were kind of hoping for and what we expect to do on offense,” Trubisky said.
Trubisky came into the game with only nine TD passes in his 15-game career. But he threw a 39-yard bomb down the sidelines to wide-open Trey Burton and a 14-yarder at the back corner of the end zone to Allen Robinson in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Tarik Cohen turned a short toss into a 9-yard score, Josh Bellamy had a 20-yarder and Taylor Gabriel took a shovel pass on the jet sweep in from three yards. Gabriel later caught a 3-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Trubisky finished 19-for-26 for 354 yards and had a 154.6 passer rating. The big passing day led to single-game receiving yardage highs for Gabriel (121 yards) and Cohen (104) as both had seven catches.
“We were making good throws, had the protection; it’s amazing what can happen when you just go out there and you just kind of cut it loose and you don’t think too much,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy said. “And that’s everybody. That’s not just the players but the coaches, too. Just let’s go out there and have a little fun.”
The Bears (3-1) led the Bucs (2-2) at halftime 38-3, the third-most points they’ve ever scored in a first half of a game. Trubisky even had 53 first-half rushing yards, including a 26-yard scramble and a 23-yard run on the read-option.
The defense that seemed to do a solo act much of the first three games finally had help.
“It feels good,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “It feels like we’re a complete team. It’s the first time we’ve done that for four quarters straight.”
Khalil Mack and the Bears defense reduced the league’s top-ranked passing attack while their offense was piling up points.
Mack became the first player with strip-sacks in four straight games since the Colts’ Robert Mathis in 2005. He also had a tipped pass that resulted in Danny Trevathan’s interception. Eddie Jackson and Aaron Lynch also had interceptions.
“We’re getting better every week and that’s what you want to see,” Mack said. “To see the guys in the back end making plays, that’s what you want to see.
“And being in a position to affect the quarterback to make them make those throws, it’s a good feeling, especially going into the bye.”
The Bucs didn’t accomplish much but did get quarterback Jameis Winston playing time, as he replaced Fitzpatrick to start the third quarter. It was his first action since being suspended the first three games for a league conduct violation.
Winston threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Brate in the fourth quarter and went 16-for-20 with two interceptions and 145 yards, after Fitzpatrick finished 9-for-18 with 126 yards and an interception.
“I felt great just to be back there with my teammates,” Winston said. “It was different than throwing against nobody, but I believe the guys that helped me prepare for this did a great job and I’ve just got to get back the feeling a little bit and be better.”
The real problem for the Bucs was their defense. Second-year safety Isaiah Johnson made his first start after both Chris Conte and Jordan Whitehead were injured. Cornerback Carlton Davis aggravated a groin strain. And the Bucs had already struggled against the pass, anyway.
“I mean, we couldn’t play zone, we couldn’t play man,” Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter complained. “They were running free and [Trubisky] had time to do it and put the ball on the money. That was all on us.”
Tampa Bay had a short work week, after a Monday night game at home with Pittsburgh. The Bucs lost tight end OJ Howard to a knee injury, to compound the problems.
“We were horrific in all aspects of the game today, all aspects,” Koetter said.