Mark Schofield: How Mitch Trubisky used his eyes to exploit Detroit’s secondary
The Chicago Bears kicked off a pivotal three-game stretch of NFC North games on Sunday and emerged victorious over the Detroit Lions, 34-22. Second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was nearly perfect on the afternoon, completing 23 of 30 passes for 355 yards and three touchdowns, for a quarterback rating of 148.6.
Trubisky also chipped in a 4-yard rushing touchdown to boot. Watching Trubisky operate in the Chicago offense on Sunday, many things stand out. Today, we’re going to focus on his eyes, as well as how Matt Nagy used a formation to set up the Lions’ defense for a big play to tight end Trey Burton.
As an added bonus, maybe you’ve been wondering what my voice sounds like (or not, which is completely understandable). If so, though, today is your lucky day! Turn the volume up as we break these plays down.
Trubisky was magnificent with his eyes, both in terms of manipulating defenders and working through progression reads. It began early in the game. On Trubisky’s second passing attempt of the game the Bears turned to one of their staple plays under Nagy, a mirrored curl/flat passing concept:
Trubisky (#10) does a great job of scanning the coverage, noticing the linebackers dropping under the curl routes as well as the interior defenders getting wide, which opens up space for the quick and easy throw on the sit route over the middle of the field.
On Chicago’s second drive of the game, the Bears called everyone’s favorite play: Four verticals. They ran this out of a 3x1 formation with tight end Trey Burton (#80) aligned alone on the left side of the field in a Y-Iso formation. On this play, Trubisky uses his eyes to help freeze the safety in the middle of the field, before throwing to Allen Robinson (#12) up the seam.:
This play design against Cover 3 gives the quarterback a chance to bracket the free safety with those two inside routes, and Trubisky’s execution is perfect.
On Trubisky’s deep strike to Robinson for a touchdown near the end of the first quarter, we see again the quarterback manipulating a free safety with his eyes, as well as diagnosing a different coverage look on the fly. Here the Lions run a Cover 1 variant, using a “Rat” defender to drop into the middle of the field and help on crossing routes. Trubisky sees it, and exploits it:
The young QB keeps his eyes trained to the left side of the field before coming to Robinson very late in the play, holding that free safety and giving his receiver a chance to operate in the vertical game.
Early in the second quarter the Bears turned to an Air Raid staple, the Mesh Concept, and Trubisky’s execution on this design would make Mike Leach smile:
Trubisky is very patient here with his eyes. Rather than force the wheel route to Taquan Mizzell (#33) out of the backfield he comes off his first read and down to the concept itself, finding Tarik Cohen (#29) on the shallow crossing route. A patient read and a good job of trusting his eyes.
The final play we’ll break down from Trubisky comes from the second quarter as well, and it is the touchdown strike to Anthony Miller (#17). If this route concept looks familiar to you, dear reader, it should:
The Bears return to the Spot Concept, a play that they ran with some...mixed...results against the New England Patriots. The results are much better here, as Trubisky and Miller connect on a long touchdown.
Matt Nagy and Y-Iso Formations
Finally, a few words about Head Coach Matt Nagy and the use of Y-Iso, a 3x1 offensive formation that puts the tight end, often Burton, alone on one side of the field. For my money this is Chicago’s most dangerous formation, especially when they shade Cohen to Burton’s side of the field, because it puts the defense in such a bind. The Bears have one (or two with Cohen) matchup nightmare players to one side, but three other receivers to the opposite flank of the formation. Pick your poison as a defense.
Watching how Nagy used Y-Iso on Sunday was like watching a world class symphony. We have seen the formation on a few of these plays but looking at three in particular, we can see how Nagy created some easy reads and throws for his quarterback, while still setting the defense up for a bigger play late in the game:
As we hear in the video, football can be an easy game.
This was a very impressive performance from the Bears’ offense and their young quarterback.
The victory moved Chicago to 6-3 on the season and they now stand a few percentage points higher than the Minnesota Vikings than they did a week ago. Setting up, of course, a huge game on Sunday night against those same Vikings.
But if Trubisky uses his eyes on Sunday night like he did against the Lions, and Nagy keeps putting his offense in advantageous positions, the Bears have a great chance to extend their divisional lead even more.