CHICAGO (AP) — From the moment they identified him as the quarterback to lift their struggling franchise, the Chicago Bears envisioned big games from Mitchell Trubisky.
As breakthroughs go, this was a huge one.
Trubisky threw a career-high six touchdown passes — one shy of the NFL record — and the NFC North-leading Bears pounded the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-10 on Sunday.
The Bears (3-1) won their third straight with Trubisky delivering the sort of performance general manager Ryan Pace envisioned when he traded up a spot to draft the prized quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick last year.
He finished one TD pass short of the franchise mark set by Sid Luckman against the New York Giants in 1943. Luckman is tied with seven others in NFL history to throw seven TD passes in a game. The Bears also racked up 483 yards in this one, nearly matching their record of 488 in that same game, on the way to their highest point total since 51-20 victory over Tennessee in 2012.
“It’s very humbling because you know the history of the Bears and how many great players have come through this organization,” Trubisky said. “For me, you’re just trying to create your own legacy and try to make a path.”
The defense did its part, harassing Ryan Fitzpatrick before Jameis Winston took over to start the second half. And the Bears (3-1) matched their longest win streak since a 3-0 start in 2013.
Trubisky had never thrown for more than two touchdowns in a game. But he tossed five in the first half alone as Chicago grabbed a 38-3 lead. The only other player with more in a single half since 1991 was Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers with six in the first two quarters against the Bears in a romp at Lambeau Field in November 2014.
Trubisky had no trouble finding wide-open receivers against a struggling secondary, completing 19 of 26 passes for 354 yards.
“Hopefully, this is a day where we look back down the road here,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said, “and say, ‘Remember that day where he had that great game?’ And it helped catapult him into being a great quarterback.”
Khalil Mack had a strip-sack in the first half against Fitzpatrick. That made him the first player with a sack and forced fumble in four straight games since Robert Mathis for Indianapolis in 2005. He also appeared to tip the ball as Winston released a pass that Danny Trevathan picked off on the first drive of the second half.
Coming off a tight loss to Pittsburgh on Monday night, the Buccaneers (2-2) were simply overwhelmed in this one.
“We should fire every person that was on that field today, starting with me. That was horrific,” coach Dirk Koetter said.
Koetter said Winston “probably” did enough to regain the starting job, but wouldn’t quite commit to that.
Tampa Bay decided to stick with Fitzpatrick as the starting quarterback even though Winston was back from a three-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
But after becoming the first player in NFL history to top 400 yards passing in three consecutive games, Fitzpatrick was 9 of 18 for 126 yards and got sacked twice. Winston was 16 for 20 with 145 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Chicago’s Tarik Cohen had a career-high 121 yards receiving and a touchdown. Taylor Gabriel had a personal-best 104 yards receiving to go with two TD catches.
Trey Burton caught a 39-yard touchdown on the game’s opening drive and finished with 86 yards.
Allen Robinson caught a 14-yarder late in the first quarter — his first TD since signing with Chicago in the offseason.
Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks was ejected for pushing an official late in the first half.
The incident occurred after Eddie Jackson intercepted a pass by Fitzpatrick. Hicks was involved in a scuffle away from the play with a Buccaneers player. Down judge Mike Carr had separated them when Hicks charged back and pushed the official, referee Jerome Boger told a pool reporter.
“It was just a deliberate act, when he knew the official was there in-between,” Boger said.
Hicks remained on the sideline for a few plays before leaving the field and threw his shoulder pads and jersey into the stands.
There were no obvious protests by either team.
Buccaneers: TE O.J. Howard left in the first half because of a knee injury. ... CB Carlton Davis III aggravated a groin injury.
Bears: LB Sam Acho left in the first half with a pectoral injury.
Buccaneers: Have bye week. At Atlanta on Oct. 14.
Bears: Have bye week. At Miami on Oct. 14.