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The Bears believe in Mitchell Trubisky, and they might not be alone anymore

Mitchell Trubisky threw six touchdown passes in Sunday's victory. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Having functioned as an impediment for the entirety of the early season, Mitchell Trubisky became a sudden phenomenon Sunday afternoon. The Chicago Bears were a sneaky playoff contender through three weeks, a status imperiled only by the shakiness of their quarterback. They had an innovative coach, a destroyer of a pass rusher and a cavalcade of offensive skill player. But did they have a worthy triggerman in the middle?

“You can hit on a lot of positions,” General Manager Ryan Pace said this summer, “but unless you hit on a quarterback, and until you get that right, the rest of it is not right.”

All along, in defiance of appearances, the Bears believed they had the right man in Trubisky. They may not be alone anymore, not after his astonishing, out-of-nowhere performance Sunday. In a 48-10 drubbing of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Trubisky threw six touchdowns — including five in the first half — and completed 19 of 26 passes for 354 yards. Dismal for three weeks, Trubisky turned incredible.

Trubisky’s performance cemented the Bears as a team to monitor, if not fear. They’re in first place in the NFC North at 3-1, with their only loss coming via their second half collapse in Green Bay, powered by an Aaron Rodgers miracle. The Vikings, Packers and Lions each have their own set of problems and, collectively, just one more victory than the Bears. There’s a lot of season left to play, and this statement may soon seem foolish, but for now, it’s the Bears’ division to lose.

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Before Sunday, Trubisky’s presence prevented that sentiment. He had averaged 197 yards in an NFL where teams had thrown for 252 yards per game. He had tossed three interceptions and just two touchdown passes. He had made throws that made him look overmatched, especially after the first handful of drives, which Coach Matt Nagy could script for him. While Khalil Mack turned quarterbacks into lunch, Trubisky struggled to manage the offense.

And then Sunday, he exploded. The opponent provides reason for pause. Tampa Bay had been allowing 363 yards per game and a quarterback rating of 117.1. Ryan Fitzpatrick turned into a pumpkin and got benched for Jameis Winston. Trubisky saw nothing but open receivers, his wideouts running through comical swaths of green grass.

But still, Trubisky was not just good. He was nearly perfect, nearly historic. He replaced indecision and inaccuracy with confidence and precision. He played the position, for one day, as well as it can be played. Since 1950, only four quarterbacks had thrown for six touchdowns and 350 yards while completing at least 73 percent of his passes, and they all have Super Bowls: Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Nick Foles.

“Where did that come from?” is something you can ask almost every week, in some fashion, in the NFL. But seriously: Where did that come from?

The Bears believed all along they have it right with Trubisky, even during his anemic start. Last year, the Bears used three draft picks to move up one spot, from No. 3 overall to No. 2, so they could draft Trubisky. When he went 4-8 in 12 starts last season, including when he attempted four passes and completed just four passes, it was an auspicious beginning.

The Bears never doubted him. They saw him playing for a coach, John Fox, whose ability to develop quarterbacks and keep up with offensive trends had grown obsolete. In Nagy, the Bears saw a perfect fit, a creative playcaller who could tailor an offense to Trubisky’s athleticism.

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In the dead of the offseason, the Bears increased their faith in Trubisky for a subtle reason. When they tried to woo free agents to come to Chicago, Pace signed wide receiver Allen Robinson, tight end Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel — all of whom caught touchdown passes from Trubisky on Sunday. The signings represented how outsiders within the league viewed Trubisky.

“When we’re trying to sign guys in free agency, if you don’t have that position right, you’re not going to get certain players,” Pace said. “I don’t care, even if you’re willing to overpay. But if you have that position dialed in — and some of the first people to recognize that are players throughout the league — then players want to come to that franchise and be a part of that. That’s real. Players know before anybody else around the league. If it’s felt you have a quarterback that can accelerate the franchise, they want to be a part of that."

This summer, Pace walked out of his office and saw Trubisky running up and down the hill, leading teammates in an extra workout. “When he’s your hardest worker, and he’s a good person and a good teammate, that’s an easy person to follow,” Pace said. “It gives the whole building confidence.”

For three weeks, the confidence in Trubisky had started to dissipate. It remains to see whether Trubisky will use Sunday as a step forward, or whether his monstrous afternoon will be a blip. But the possibility that he’s for real — that Nagy can have the poor man’s effect on Trubisky that Jared Goff had on Sean McVay last year — makes the Bears a scary team.

If Pace didn’t believe in Trubisky, the Bears never would have traded Mack and then signed him to a $141 million extension. Unless you hit on a quarterback, and until you get that right, the rest of it is not right. That the Bears pulled off the trade reveals what they think about Trubisky. For one improbable Sunday, the Bears look right.