In the locker room following Sunday’s win over the Chicago Bears, New England Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy was asked how tough it was to tackle Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
His response: “Clearly a little tougher than we thought.”
Though the Patriots did many things well in their unorthodox 38-31 victory at Soldier Field, defending against Trubisky’s rushing ability certainly was not one of them.
Trubisky, who isn’t given enough credit for his athleticism, routinely picked up large chunks of real estate on the ground against the Patriots, rushing for a career-high 81 yards on just six carries. That included an 8-yard touchdown run in the first quarter — which Trubisky traveled more than 70 yards to score — and a 39-yard romp early in the third.
None of Trubisky’s carries came on designed QB runs, either. All were scrambles, the second-year pro spotting a hole in the Patriots’ defense and exploiting it.
“We didn’t do a very good job of rushing the passer,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday on a conference call. “I mean, bad coaching, bad tackling, some bad playing — just not very good. I mean, he ran well, he broke a couple tackles, but not very good by us in any area.”
Belichick gave Trubisky credit for his 39-yard run — on which he forced missed tackles by cornerbacks Eric Rowe and Stephon Gilmore and linebacker Elandon Roberts — but said the rest were the result of New England’s own miscues.
“He made one good run (where) he broke a couple tackles,” Belichick said. “The other ones, I wouldn’t say he broke any tackles. We just let him out into open space and, I mean, there’s a lot of yards to be gained when there’s nobody out there and a guy just runs until he runs out of bounds or picks up a first down.”
Fortunately for the Patriots, Trubisky wasn’t nearly as effective with his arm. The second-year pro completed just 26 of 50 passes (52 percent, down from 71 percent in Week 6 and 73.1 percent in Week 4) and threw two interceptions, though Patriots cornerbacks made highlight-reel plays on both.
Before we turn the page to this week’s Monday night matchup with the Buffalo Bills, let’s take a look back at why Trubisky was able to have so much success running on the Patriots’ defense:
— Trubisky extended Chicago’s opening drive by scrambling for 14 yards on third-and-6. Thanks to some solid work by the right side of the Bears’ offensive line, three Patriots defenders — defensive tackle Adam Butler, linebacker Kyle Van Noy and defensive end Trey Flowers — ended up clustered next to each other, creating a huge hole for the quarterback to run through.
Trubisky displayed some nice acceleration to outrun safety Devin McCourty and pick up the first down.
— Credit center Cody Whitehair and left guard James Daniels’ for Trubisky’s next scramble.
The Patriots tried to run a stunt on second-and-13, with Flowers looping to the inside of defensive tackle Danny Shelton. When Flowers came around, Whitehair disengaged from Shelton to take him on, and Daniels picked up the slack on Shelton. Each player drove his respective defender to the right, leaving Trubisky a wide-open running lane on the left side.
He raced for 14 yards before being brought down from behind by defensive tackle Lawrence Guy. This was his only carry that didn’t result in either a first down or a touchdown.
One play later, on third-and-2, right guard Kyle Long drove Guy across the formation, and Trubisky outran him and linebacker Dont’a Hightower to the sideline for 2 yards and a first down.
— Next up was Trubisky’s marathon touchdown run, which came on third-and-6.
Flowers and fellow defensive end Adrian Clayborn appeared to have Trubisky hemmed in after he scrambled out of the pocket to the right, but Clayborn, who’d beaten left tackle Charles Leno on the play, took a poor angle, allowing the QB to turn this:
… into this:
After reversing field, Trubisky evaded Butler and linked up with a convoy of blockers. Leno walled off Hightower, and Whitehair pancaked safety Duron Harmon as Trubisky crossed the goal line.
— With just over three minutes remaining in the first half, Chicago faced another third-and-6. The Patriots overloaded the right side of the formation and called for a backside stunt, with defensive end Deatrich Wise looping to Butler’s inside.
As was the case on New England’s earlier stunt, neither Wise nor Butler could get through, allowing Trubisky to scramble to his right for a first down. Van Noy gave chase but couldn’t reach him in time.
— Trubisky’s final run of the game was his 39-yarder — a play that couldn’t have been enjoyable for the Patriots to rewatch during film study.
New England brought Rowe on a corner blitz, but after being stood up by running back Jordan Howard, he couldn’t grab a hold of Trubisky as the QB darted toward the line. Trubisky made it 15 yards downfield before being touched by a Patriots defender — Gilmore, who whiffed on a diving tackle attempt.
Roberts and safety Patrick Chung both overpursued and couldn’t bring down Trubisky, whom Hightower finally wrangled at the 1-yard line. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown also got leveled by tight end Trey Burton as he ran to catch up.
Not a banner performance from the Patriots’ defense, which surely is excited to face a far less mobile quarterback in Buffalo’s Derek Anderson this week.
Thumbnail photo via Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports Images