CHICAGO — The Chicago Bears still aren’t going to be good this year. They’ve been hit too hard by injuries, and can’t get out of their own way when it comes to costly penalties.
With Mitchell Trubisky, however, they are going to be fun.
The No. 2 pick, making his first NFL start, cost the Bears the game against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night, throwing an interception just before the two-minute warning that even folks in the cheap seats could see coming. Six plays — and one Bears penalty — later, Kai Forbath kicked his second 26-yard field goal of the night and the Vikings had crashed Trubisky’s party with their 20-17 win.
But Trubisky showed enough athleticism, mobility and moxie to reinforce the faith the Bears and their fans have already put in him. After decades of bumbling from one bad quarterback to another (Remember Cade McNown? How about Jonathan Quinn? Who can forget the glorious Shane Matthews era?) Chicago might finally have found its franchise guy.
“He’s got what it takes. There’s no doubt in my mind,” Bears coach John Fox said.
Fox even dropped Joe Montana’s name, then wisely thought better of it. The expectations for Trubisky already border on the unrealistic, what with the entire city looking at him and seeing the gridiron version of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
But Trubisky will make the Bears entertaining, and that’s more than they’ve been able to say in a long, long time.
Take his 18-yard completion to Tre McBride III in the first quarter. The Vikings had brought pressure, so Trubisky rolled out, scanning the field as he ran. Spotting McBride, he fired a laser that many quarterbacks couldn’t have managed standing still.
Or his 13-yard scramble in the third quarter to keep what would be the game-tying drive alive. After finding Zach Miller in the back of the end zone, thanks to a little help from Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo, Trubisky finished off a wacky, double-reserve two-point conversion.
Trubisky handed off to Jordan Howard, who gave the ball to Miller, who then pitched it back to Trubisky. As Trubisky sprinted into the end zone, Soldier Field erupted in a raucous roar.
“Sweet, right?” Trubisky said, a grin crossing his face.
It’s plays like that, plays that Mike Glennon couldn’t have pulled off if you’d given him five years of practice, that will keep Bears fans invested even as the team grinds through another losing season and Trubisky has his growing pains.
Because those are going to happen. Trubisky started all of 13 games at North Carolina, and his rawness is as apparent as his talent. That interception came on a throw he never should have made, a broken play that was all but telegraphed for Pro Bowl safety Harrison Smith.
There will be a time when Trubisky is able to conjure something out of nothing. For now, though, the defensive backs are faster, smarter and sneakier than anything he saw in college, and they’re going to have the edge every time.
“It is just a learning process just like anything else,” Trubisky acknowledged. “Obviously the windows are tighter and … the guys know how to be deceptive and they know how to close the windows faster.”
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But Trubisky has already proven to be a quick study. As abysmal as Glennon was — five interceptions in four games — Fox and general manager Ryan Pace wouldn’t have turned the offense over to their prized rookie this early in the season unless they were sure he could handle it.
His numbers weren’t great — 12 of 25, 128 yards, a 60.1 QB rating. But they weren’t any worse than the Bears would have gotten from any of their other recent quarterbacks.
“For a first outing, I thought he was really good. I know his teammates feel the same way,” Fox said. “He’ll just get better with time.”
Buckle up, Bears fans. The ride is still going to be rocky, but it’s going to be a whole lot more fun.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour
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