Since Justin Fields' injury, Andy Dalton has shown what he can do when called upon to play with a moment's notice, and without any real practice twice.
On Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals he will show what he can do with some actual preparation time.
"You know, you get full-speed reps, I think that's important," Dalton said Friday. "And so last week, most of the stuff was walk-through and everything, so it's good to have a full week of preparation going into it."
Dalton starts for injured Justin Fields again but unlike against Detroit on Thanksgiving he has had four days of work in preparation. Since the Lions game was only four days after the previous Bears game, only walk-through practices were held.
Still, Dalton was good enough against Detroit to complete 24 of 39 for 317 yards, the most yards passing by a Bears quarterback this season. He had a touchdown and an interception.
He did this despite losing wide receiver Marquise Goodwin during the game to a pair of injuries, and didn't have Allen Robinson available due to a hamstring injury.
When the Bears take the field Sunday, this situation hasn't improved. Robinson hasn't practiced all week and is listed doubtful while Goodwin is out.
Next man up is Damiere Byrd, who Dalton found almost unused this year until the Lions game. Dalton complete four passes for 42 yards to Goodwin.
"Yeah, yeah, and he's been here from the beginning, and he's done a good job for us," Dalton said. "He made some big plays for us last week as well.
"With having some different guys in there and different things, we just make sure we're communicating well, making sure everybody's on the same page and trust our guys to get the job done."
Dalton also got tight ends more involved, although Fields had begun to do this before his broken ribs against Baltimore. Cole Kmet made a career-high eight receptions against the Lions and Jimmy Graham caught a touchdown pass for the first time this season after a 2020 season when he had nine, including the playoffs.
"We've got a good, really talented tight end group and we've got depth there, so we've done a lot of things with multiple tight ends on the field," Dalton said. "And that's just kind of how we've been able to play and how we've been able to find some matchups out there."
The offense has begun to play with more confidence and consistency, even before Dalton replaced Fields. They have had big fourth-quarter scoring drives in the last three games, including an 18-play drive to win the game over Detroit.
"We've got to be consistent with what we're doing," Dalton said. "I think consistency is the key, and sure it was great, and to have that last drive, to go on the long drive that allows us to win the game, kick the field goal right at the end, there's stuff we can build off of for sure. And I think we have to carry a little bit of that momentum into this week and where we're going here on out."
Bears coaches are at ease with Dalton running the show.
"He's seen a million different defenses," Bears coach Matt Nagy said. "He's been in a bunch of different huddle breaks and different calls at the line of scrimmage. So a lot of times it's more of him just being able to run it, there's not a lot of (hesitancy). He's been there, done that."
Dalton will be facing a familiar opponent in some respects. He played against Arizona each of the last two seasons as a starter in 2019 with Cincinnati and 2020 with Dallas and lost against defensive coordinator Vance Joseph's unit each time, 26-23 with two TD passes in 2019 and 38-10 with the Cowboys last year when he threw three interceptions and one TD pass.
Joseph was actually a defensive assistant with the Bengals in 2014 and 2015 when Dalton played there, but was not a defensive coordinator. His scheme now has been compared by the Bears to being like Pittsburgh's.
"I think Vance does a great job being able to mix up what he does, how he does it, when he does it," Nagy said. "I mean at any point in time, he can get to what he needs to get to. He's been very successful. He's good at the cat-and-mouse game of showing a lot of heat and not bringing it, or showing a lot of heat and bringing it.
"That's a credit to him and he's always been that way. And then their players execute. We've gotta have a good plan for that and be prepared, but they're a defense that flies around."
Nagy couldn't project how much longer Dalton would be needed as starter, only to say Fields is improving health-wise. He won't even be backup for this game, though, and likely to be on the inactive list. Fields ran some of the scout team plays this week in practice.
"I think he's definitely getting closer," Nagy said. "Again, progress for him, and every day you just try to get a little bit closer, and after we get through this game and we go ahead and see, OK, where you at? We're going to evaluate it next week and next week should be better.
"So now we just need to figure out exactly from him talking to us as to how he feels."