Chicago Bears quarterback Andy Dalton will get his third start of the season when his team travels to Motown to face the Detroit Lions in their annual Thanksgiving Day game. And Dan Campbell is intent on making sure his defense is more than prepared.
Bears head coach Matt Nagy confirmed on Tuesday that Justin Fields would miss Thursday’s game. Fields suffered a rib injury during a 16-13 loss to the Ravens on Sunday. With it being a short week, it limited the amount of recovery time for the rookie quarterback. Because of that, it paved the way for Dalton to get his first start since Week 2. Dalton is in a similar position to Lions’ backup quarterback Tim Boyle on Sunday vs. the Browns. Boyle got the start for Jared Goff on Sunday, who was out nursing a rib injury himself.
It’s not a secret that Dalton isn’t the playmaker Fields is. And with Dalton having mediocre to below-average play over recent years, one could surmise Thursday would be easy for the Lions’ defense. Maybe they can even take the foot off the gas a little bit.
Dan Campbell doesn’t view it that way.
Due to Dalton’s familiarity with the Bears’ offense, Campbell stressed the need for his defense to bring the same preparation that Dalton will.
“For him, he’s run it. He’s done it.,” said Campbell. “[Dalton’s] seen it. He doesn’t need a lot. He doesn’t need a ton of reps to prepare for this game.”
“He’s been in that system. They’re going to have things that he’s done well that’s probably a staple in the offense, but more importantly, are staples for him.”
With Dalton starting, Campbell expects the Bears to feature a run-based offense and more plays under center for Dalton, including play-action passes.
Andy Dalton won’t be a walk in the park for the Lions’ defense regardless of the playcalling. The Lions are one of eight teams that Dalton has an undefeated record (2-0) when playing against them. In his two games against the Lions, Dalton has a 68% completion rate and a 104.9 quarterback rating.
And it gets worse. Dalton averages 305 yards over those two games vs. Lions and four touchdowns to one interception. His best outing was his first time at Ford Field in 2013. Then starting for the Bengals, Dalton led them to a 27-24 victory over the Lions. He threw for 372 yards and three touchdowns against a significantly better Lions’ defense than he’ll play Thursday.
However, Dan Campbell likes the chances of his defense on a short week if they come prepared with two intangibles: mental focus and game-day energy.
“[With] those two things, if we’ll just lock in again, we’ll be ready to go,” said Campbell. “It’s about preparing yourself one more time, four days away from the last game, and going in with energy. Because those are the teams that win.”