QB controversy? Bears rookie Mitch Trubisky stellar in preseason debut

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The Bears don’t have a quarterback controversy.

The way Mitch Trubisky played Thursday night, though, it’s only a matter of time.

The Bears’ rookie quarterback was the most exciting thing inside Soldier Field on Thursday night — a low bar, given the Bears’ embarrassing start — in a 24-17 loss to the Broncos.

Making his NFL preseason debut, the No. 2 overall pick gave Bears fans more than just a stellar stat line — 18-for-25 for 166 yards, one touchdown and a 103.1 passer rating. After a 3-13 season last year and a first half that looked like more of the same, he became a symbol of hope.

He entered the game with 1:55 left in a dreadful first half, at the 50-yard line, with his team trailing by 10. His predecessors had combined to complete 3-of-12 passes for 24 yards; starter Mike Glennon was particularly brutal, throwing one touchdown — to the Broncos — and finishing with a passer rating of 0.0.

The crowd roared, hopeful. A lineman, Will Poehls, actually waved his arms downward to quiet them, afraid the offense wouldn’t hear the play.

The cheers proved prescient.

Albeit against second- and third-stringers — and worse — Trubisky showed flashes of stardom. He electrified fans, many of whom spent the offseason criticizing GM Ryan Pace for trading four draft picks just to move up one spot to, in a surprise, take the North Carolina quarterback.

The Bears have maintained ever since that Glennon was their starter this season, and Trubisky, who had 13 career college starts, would redshirt. One sharp game — with most of his snaps coming against players who won’t make the Broncos — won’t change those plans.

Still, Trubisky made his case, emphatically.

“I tell you what, the stuff he’s doing on the field right now is something that you hopefully look forward to seeing in the regular season and against better competition,” defensive end Akiem Hicks said. “He looks really good right now. He’s out here ready to play, he’s an athlete and I look forward to seeing him compete further.”

It took Trubisky 11 attempts to throw his first incompletion. By then — a minute-and-a-half into the fourth quarter — he’d marched the Bears to scoring drives of 50 and 75 yards.

Trubisky’s third drive ended with a 25-yard Connor Barth field goal that gave the Bears a 17-10 lead. The Broncos tied it about four minutes later and took the lead on a 41-yard De’Angelo Henderson on third-and-22 with about two minutes to play. Trubisky ran another two-minute drill and got the Bears as far as the Broncos’ 22. He threw an incompletion in the end zone as time expired.

Scoring 17 points on three drives took more than a red-hot quarterback. The first play of Trubisky’s first drive, Ka’Deem Carey rattled off an 18-yard run. Two plays later, cornerback Lorenzo Doss slipped on a short pass to Josh Bellamy, allowing the Bears receiver to scamper for 18 yards. The Broncos committed two penalties, including defensive holding in the end zone, which gave the Bears first-and-goal from the 2.

Victor Cruz, who has been in the NFL since Trubisky was a high school sophomore, caught an easy throw from the rookie to give the Bears their first points.

As they have during training camp, the Bears used Trubisky’s athleticism to their advantage, rolling him out of the pocket to either flank and creating passing lanes on crossing patterns. His accuracy on the run has been remarkable in practice; a 13-yard fourth-quarter completion to Tanner Gentry, with both quarterback and receiver sprinting right, proved it can translate to games.

The quarterback used his legs to scramble, too; on a “free play” because of an offside call, he ran 12 yards and slid for a first down on the first drive of the third quarter. That series ended with another score — one that would have gone into Trubisky’s stat line had Rueben Randle been able to stretch the football an extra inch over the goal line on a nine-yard completion. Running back Benny Cunningham dove over the left guard on the next play for a touchdown.

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