General manager Ryan Pace spoke with Jeff Joniak Thursday evening on the Bears pregame radio show on WBBM Newsradio 780 AM and 105.9 FM. The following is a transcript of that conversation.
On what it means to play meaningful football in December:
"At this point we're just taking one game at a time. I know coach [Matt Nagy] always talks about that. We all feel the same way. Every game is meaningful this time of year and our whole focus is on this game tonight."
On what he's learned about quarterback Mitchell Trubisky's improved performance in recent weeks:
"Really he's played well the last two games. I think really as an offense as a whole you can feel us gelling together. I think looking back at Mitch, especially last week, throwing with accuracy. I think he did a good job improvising when things weren't necessarily clean."
On the Cowboys allowing opposing quarterbacks to gain yards on the ground the past four weeks:
"These guys are really good on third down and have a really good front four. They bring a lot of pressure, so we're going to have our hands full. But yeah, Mitch is playing really well right now."
On receiver Anthony Miller's recent emergence:
"If you look at him, his ability to separate really stands out. And what you see is a young player that's really coming into form and really developing that chemistry and that trust with the quarterback."
On David Montgomery possessing an internal fire and high expectations for his future with the Bears:
"One hundred percent. And you can see it with his running style. He's such a tough, physical runner. He averaged almost five yards a carry last week against Detroit. You felt our offensive line generating movement at the point of attack, Montgomery's running hard, and it's really just making our run game efficiency better."
On the performance of inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Nick Kwiatkoski:
"I think you look at both those guys and they're both playing well right now. The trait that stands out with both of them is just the instincts they play with, and that allows them to play fast. Both guys are physical players. They both play downhill, and they need to have big games tonight against Ezekiel Elliott and this offense."
On Akiem Hicks returning to practice this week and hoping to play a week from Sunday in Green Bay:
"You feel it throughout the team. Just getting him back at practice has been a big boost to the guys. We're in that three-week window and we can activate him as early as next week when he's ready. But overall I would say that's heading in a good direction."
On cleaning up communication issues that have affected the offense, defense and special teams:
"You look at the parity in our league; all these games are so close. We know we've got to cut down on that stuff. Those are self-inflicted mistakes that we can't have. But it's an emphasis for us and the good thing is these are very fixable problems."
On whether it's troubling that injuries continue to mar tight end Adam Shaheen's growth:
"It's unfortunate. It's frustrating for him. It's frustrating for us. Adam tried to battle through it. Collectively, we just came to the decision it was best to just step back and let him get healthy."
On Sherrick McManis being placed on injured reserve and whether Pace is comfortable with the young players on special teams:
"[McManis] is a big part of this team. He's a difference-maker on special teams. It hurts having him on IR. But the guys are stepping up. You just look at our secondary guys, like [Deon] Bush, [DeAndre] Houston-Carson, [Kevin] Toliver, Duke Shelley, all those guys are playing well right now on special teams, and that really helps."
On whether the Cowboys game could be a significant one in relation to the rest of the season the way a win over the Rams was last year:
"Right now all these games are impactful. You think about a night game at Soldier Field and just the impact that our fans can have. Our players feel that, feel their support. So there will be a lot of energy."
On Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith, who has overcome a serious knee injury he sustained in college:
"You look at him, a second-round pick in 2016. The first thing we've got to acknowledge and really just respect is what he's overcome to get to where he's at. It says a lot about his perseverance. It says a lot about his work ethic. As a player, he's extremely physical. He's violent at the point of attack. He's long, so he separates and sheds blocks fast. He plays sideline-to-sideline; just a really well-rounded linebacker."