CHICAGO — FitzMagic was too good to last.
After briefly morphing into the NFL’s most entertaining quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick returned to his 14-year journeyman form Sunday and was benched at halftime for Jameis Winston. Winston couldn't rally the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 48-10 loss to the Chicago Bears, but he at least threw for a touchdown.
Winston finished 16 of 20 for 145 yards. In addition to the TD, he threw two picks.
Winston missed the first three games of the season after he allegedly sexually assaulted an Uber driver. But there wasn't much of a doubt entering this week that Winston was going to get his job back as the Buccaneers’ starting quarterback.
The question was when.
Though Fitzpatrick struggled Monday against Pittsburgh – he threw three interceptions – asking Winston to take over seemed to be a tall order. Plus, Tampa Bay has a bye next weekend, which made it seem more likely that Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter would wait until the Oct. 14 game in Atlanta to make the switch.
But the first half made that impossible. Fitzpatrick, who had thrown for 400-plus yards in each of the first three games, managed just 126 yards on 9-of-18 passing. He drove the Buccaneers past midfield twice, but they had to settle for a field goal after Fitzpatrick overthrew O.J. Howard in the end zone.
Mitchell Trubisky, meanwhile, was doing his best impression of Sid Luckman, throwing for five TDs in the first half and finishing with six.
And if there were any lingering questions about why the Buccaneers made the switch, Winston erased them late in the third quarter. Facing second-and-6 from his own 45, Winston looked as if he was about to be sacked when Khalil Mack got a hand on his ankle and began pulling.
But Winston somehow managed to wriggle free and took off running, picking up the first down. Eight plays later, he connected with Cameron Brate for a 16-yard touchdown.
Hey, when you’re on the wrong end of a rout, you have to take the positives where you can get them.
Here’s what else we learned from Buccaneers-Bears:
TRUBISKY CAN PLAY: Trubisky has not fared well in comparisons with Patrick Mahomes, who was taken eight spots after the Bears quarterback in the 2017 draft. Mahomes threw an NFL-best 13 touchdowns in the first three games while Trubisky remained a week in progress.
But Bears coach Matt Nagy had said Trubisky wasn’t that far from breaking out and did he ever.
In a big way.
Trubisky became the first Bears quarterback in the Super Bowl era to throw for six touchdowns — and five of those came in the first half. He looked the most comfortable he has yet, leading his receivers and hitting them in stride. His second TD pass was a beauty, a perfectly placed ball to the back of the end zone where only Allen Robinson could get it.
Trubisky finished 19-of-26 for 354 yards and a sparkling 154.6 QB rating.
The victory gives Chicago its first three-game win streak since 2013, and sends Trubisky into the bye week with a ton of confidence.
JON GRUDEN’S WORST NIGHTMARE: What exactly was Jon Gruden thinking again?
Mack continued to be a one-man wrecking crew, getting his fifth sack of the season and fourth forced fumble. That makes him the first player since 2005 to notch a sack and a forced fumble in four consecutive games.
Mack wreaked havoc in other ways, too, forcing the Buccaneers to try double teams, which opened opportunities for his teammates.
Mack has only been in Chicago for a month, having been traded to the Bears from the Oakland Raiders just before the season began. Imagine the havoc he will create after a bye week in which he has nothing to do but study.
Big mistake, Gruden. Big. Huge.
NEW NUMBER, WHO DIS: Long the doormats of the NFC North, the Bears head into the bye week atop the division.
At 3-1, Chicago is off to its best start since 2013. And while talk of the playoffs seemed overly optimistic before the season began, it doesn’t seem so overblown now. Outside of their division games, the Bears only have two games left that seem problematic: against the New England Patriots (Oct. 21) and the Los Angeles Rams (Dec. 9), both of which are at home.
Follow Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
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