Calm, confident and competitive.
Those are three of the most recurring words that Bears coaches and players have used to describe veteran starting quarterback Andy Dalton.
"The things I would say that really stand out about Andy would be his competitiveness and his poise and ability in pressure situations to operate—at the end of some really close games that he's come back and won in two-minute situations," said offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.
The Bears figure to benefit from those traits Sunday night when they open the season in a nationally-televised road game against the Rams.
"He just kind of operates the same all the time as far as his calling plays, operating the offense and being able to play in those pressure situations," Lazor said. "His competitiveness is definitely special, and hopefully when the real lights are on and we are going Sunday night, that shows up for everybody and it spreads."
Lazor is very familiar with Dalton, having served as his position coach (2016) and offensive coordinator (2017-18) with the Bengals. Others who are working with the 11-year NFL veteran for the first time are also getting the same vibes.
"He's calm, he's confident in the huddle," said center Cody Whitehair. "As a quarterback, that's what you want. We break the huddle. We get to the line. He and [center] Sam [Mustipher] do a great job communicating and putting us in the right situation to be successful in the play. That's all we can ask for."
A three-time Pro Bowler with the Bengals, Dalton is proud of his ability to remain calm even under the most difficult circumstances.
"At this position, you can say pressure comes from all different angles—from playing the game to the way a game is going," Dalton said. "You still have to be even-keeled through the whole thing. I feel like I learned that as a young player.
"I wouldn't necessarily say just in the NFL, but it's kind of what I pride myself on is just always being steady and a guy who's unwavering in everything. When you're talking football specifically, it's understanding when you can get the ball out of your hands and when you can hold onto it a little bit longer and understanding protections and all the different stuff that goes into it."
Dalton signed a one-year contract with the Bears in March after spending his first 10 NFL seasons with the Bengals (2011-19) and Cowboys (2020). He has appeared in 144 career games with 142 starts, passing for 33,764 yards and 218 touchdowns. With that much experience, there's little if anything Dalton hasn't seen on the field.
"In the walk-throughs, we tend to give them really difficult things when it comes to blitzes and situations with the defense," Lazor said. "It's hard to put something up there that he hasn't faced at some point … there tends to be very little panic from a guy who's faced it before and has had success. That's just kind of what he brings to the table.
"That gets pushed onto everybody when he's calling the plays. Or even when something gets messed up, he can say, 'wait a second, we can do it this way,' and he has an answer ready. He's learned the language and the different tools we have to respond to problems and he's ready to apply them. And, again, a lot of it is because he had to before."
Dalton did not take many preseason reps with starting receivers Allen Robinson II and Darnell Mooney. But the veteran quarterback is confident that the cohesiveness they've developed on the practice field will carry over to games.
"That's why you do all that work," Dalton said. "That's why in the offseason you get together with guys and you throw. For me, everybody was new. [It was my] first time working with a lot of these guys and so [I was] just trying to learn how they run routes and how they move. That's all the work that we put in, and that's why you do it."
Although the Bears are facing a Rams defense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL last season, Dalton expects both he and the offense to perform well.
"I would say that I'm a very competitive person, not only from the game of football but kind of with everything I do," Dalton said. "So, I hold myself to a standard and expect to play at a high level and help this team in any way.
"We're here at Week 1, and this is exactly what I wanted. I wanted this opportunity, and now we're looking forward to making the most of it."