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In every game he has played, rookie Mitch Trubisky has taken steps toward becoming a better quarterback, in the opinion of Chicago Bears coaches.
But in Sunday's 33-7 rout of the Bengals at Cincinnati, his ninth start, Trubisky took a giant leap forward.
"Production-wise, if you just look at yardage and all the things people look at statistically, "I think it was by far his best," Bears coach John Fox said,
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, and our best."
That it was the Bears' first victory in seven weeks was a huge factor.
"I don't know about specific areas,
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," Trubisky said, regarding his own improvement,
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, "but all I'm worried about is winning and getting better each day. I think it all starts with leadership and coming into the building, working hard,
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, making sure I'm preparing the right way. Walking around the building with a positive mindset, picking up the guys, making sure everyone's locked in at practice.
"And then doing my job."
Against the Bengals, Trubisky completed a personal-best 25 passes on 32 attempts. His 78.1 completion percentage was his second best of the season, as were his 271 passing yards. For the sixth time in nine starts, he did not throw an interception.
Trubisky's personal numbers and the team's victory are the culmination of months of hard work that often is obscured by a five-game losing streak. There are minor details that may not be noticeable even in victory -- things like communication in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage and, for Trubisky, proper technique.
"Doing my footwork (correctly), putting the ball in the right spot and doing the little things on a daily basis," he said. "That's what has allowed me to get better, and then it's carrying over to Sunday."
It adds up, especially on third downs.
The Bears have converted 43.8 percent of their third downs the past two weeks. That's better than the NFL average of 38.9, and a it's significant improvement over the previous three games,
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,when the Bears converted just 27.8 percent.
"That's where the quarterbacks make their money,
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, " said Dowell Loggains, the Bears' offensive coordinator. "That's when they know they're throwing,
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,and he's going to go back there and read coverages. It all starts with making protection checks. He did a really good job in the (Bengals) game; had a couple adjustments he made at the line of scrimmage that were really good.
"It's just a sign of growth,
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, of understanding how all 11 people are affected by pressures and where your hot (reads) are. It's just another step that he's taking -- in a road game vs. a really good defense and a tough third-down package."
Execution on third down isn't the only area in which Trubisky has made strides. He did not complete 60 percent of his passes in any of his first four starts, but he has completed at least 60 percent in four of his last five games. He was sacked 16 times in his first five starts but just seven times in his last four.
"It's not just me,
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," Trubisky said. "We're getting better as a group and jelling together,
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, and the chemistry is building, and hopefully that allows us to get better each week.
The No. 1 priority is winning, so that's all I'm focused on."
For coaches on the outside looking in at the playoff picture, it's all about improvement, and they see that in Trubisky.
"He just keeps stacking up good games, better and better, (in) every start he's played in," Loggains said. "Mitchell, has gotten better. And I anticipate him to continue to do that."
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