Mike Zimmer on Chicago Bears’ Trubisky: ‘there’s times he looks like Fran Tarkenton scrambling’

November 15, 2018

Count one of the game’s most universally respected defensive minds among those impressed by the Chicago Bears’ upstart offense.

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, in his meeting Wednesday with reporters, praised reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week Mitch Trubisky and emerging Coach of the Year candidate Matt Nagy. The Bears play the Vikings on Sunday night at Soldier Field.

In Trubisky, Zimmer said there are times when the Bears’ second-year signal caller’s mobility is reminiscent of Fran Tarkenton, a former MVP, three-time Super Bowl champion and Pro Football Hall of Famer, who ranks No. 4 on the NFL’s all-time rushing list among quarterbacks.

“I think he’s done pretty much everything,” Zimmer said of Trubisky. “There’s been times he’s had some free runners and it looks like they’re telling him, “Hey, you have to get the ball out.” He gets the ball out with accuracy. There’s other times he looks like Fran Tarkenton scrambling. Some of the runs he’s made are unbelievable.”

Trubisky scored his third touchdown of the season with his legs Sunday and trails only Cam Newton (352 yards) among quarterbacks in rushing yards (320 for Trubisky). Minnesota has only allowed 108 rushing yards to enemy quarterbacks, tied for ninth fewest in the league, but has permitted three rushing touchdowns — more than every club except the Saints and Colts. Minnesota’s run ‘D’ could get a boost, too, with the return from injury of highly athletic LB Anthony Barr (hamstring) and thumping box safety Andrew Sendejo.

Zimmer, albeit tongue in cheek, we assume, also sounds impressed by the sheer volume of plays available on rookie head coach Matt Nagy’s call sheet.

“800 plays,” Zimmer quipped of the options at Nagy’s disposal, adding that “there’s no doubt in my mind, we’ll get some new plays.”

When Nagy was told Wednesday of Zimmer’s remark, he fired back, lightheartedly: “Nah, [it’s] more like 750.”

Of course, former Bears coordinator Dowell Loggains, who oversaw the NFL’s 29th-ranked scoring unit (30th in total offense), dusted off a fancy trick play in the Bears’ 20-17 Week 5 primetime defeat vs. Minnesota in Trubisky’s starting debut a year ago. Consider it our reminder that the success of Nagy’s fifth-ranked scoring offense is predicated every bit as much on substance as style, even as the Bears roll out a weekly dizzying array of formations and weapons with which defenses must contend.

Zimmer, whose 5-3-1 Vikings have won four of their past five games and pose the stiffest test yet for Trubisky’s Bears, also has taken notice of the Khalil Mack effect in Chicago.

I think he’s added a lot of swagger to the Bears,” Zimmer said, pointing specifically to Mack’s first sack Sunday, when he first manhandled TE Michael Roberts, then former first-round LT Taylor Decker, en route to Matthew Stafford.

“The physicality of defeating a tight end, defeating an offensive tackle, the aggressive nature he plays with. That probably adds to all the other guys,” Zimmer said.

Zimmer’s quarterback, Kirk Cousins, is on pace to absorb a career-high 42 sacks in his first season with the Vikings, who could get former Bear and starting LG Tom Compton back from injury after he missed the previous two games.

Meantime, the Vikings’ surging defense has kept its past four opponents under 300 total yards and allowed only 4.1 yards per play since Week 4, when the Los Angeles Rams averaged 10.1 in what Zimmer called perhaps the worst performance by a pass defense he’s overseen as an NFL coach or coordinator.

Two red-hot clubs. Two thriving quarterbacks in Year 1 of new systems. Two brilliant strategist head coaches doubling as play callers. But there can only be one club in first place in the NFC North come around 10:30 p.m. Sunday night.

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