Andy Dalton will start against Lions

But Justin Fields still is the Bears’ No. 1 quarterback and will start when he recovers from injured ribs he suffered against the Ravens on Sunday — maybe against the Cardinals on Dec. 5.

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Bears quarterback Andy Dalton (14) completed 11-of-23 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions for a 107.3 passer rating in relief of injured starter Justin Fields on Sunday against the Ravens.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In other news . . . 

“So, Andy’s gonna be the starter,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said in the midst of a 10-minute interrogation about his job status Tuesday at Halas Hall.

Nagy confirmed the obvious: Andy Dalton indeed will be the Bears’ starting quarterback Thursday against the Lions at Ford Field, with rookie Justin Fields still recovering from an injury to his ribs he suffered Sunday in the third quarter of a 16-13 loss to the Ravens at Soldier Field. 

Fields, however, still is the No. 1 quarterback and will start when he’s healthy — possibly at home against the Cardinals on Dec. 5. 

“You would hope so,” Nagy said. “We’ve just got to see where his ribs are at. I think it’s day by day. But he’s been doing pretty good. We’ve just got to keep an eye on it.”

Nagy clarified the quarterback situation a day after saying Fields could start against the Lions. That seemed unlikely, if not unwise, considering Fields’ injury and the short, four-day turnaround before the Lions game. Now Fields will have nearly two full weeks to get healthy and face the Cardinals.

The Fields/Dalton scenario was an appropriate sidelight to the story of the day: Nagy’s future as Bears coach. After nearly six months of intense debate over which quarterback should be playing, it appears neither can help Nagy now. 

Dalton, in fact, has the most to gain. He signed with the Bears to be their starter and prove he still has what it takes to start in the NFL at 34. This is his chance.

“For sure,” Dalton said. “I believe I’m a starter in this league. Coming into this year, that’s what I was. That’s what I expect. I started every year I’ve been in the league minus last year [as a backup with the Cowboys], but still got to play a lot.

“[But] my focus isn’t on what is going to be going on after this year or after this game. My whole focus is just on being the best quarterback and best player I can be to help this team win on Thursday.”

Dalton hasn’t started since Week 2 against the Bengals, when he suffered a bone bruise in his left knee and was replaced by Fields. 

He replaced Fields in the third quarter against the Ravens, though, and provided an overall boost. He threw two touchdown passes, including a 49-yard bomb to Marquise Goodwin that gave the Bears a 13-9 lead with 1:41 to go. 

Dalton has little practice time to prepare for the Lions, but with 11 years and 148 starts of NFL experience, that shouldn’t be a huge hurdle for him. 

“It’s a challenge,” Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “I think we’re fortunate we have Andy Dalton, a guy who has had to play and prepare many times. He exudes good confidence to the group, the way he carries himself and goes about his business. When you’re out there with him, they feel like he’s going to be ready.” 

It has been an interesting year for Dalton, who signed a one-year contract as a free agent in March. Nagy stuck with him as the starter after Fields was drafted 11th overall in April. But Dalton wasn’t thrilled when Nagy eventually stuck with Fields after Dalton hurt his knee. 

Dalton said Nagy has kept the locker room together as the season has veered toward oblivion.

“I think he’s done a good job of just being in front of everybody and being real,” Dalton said. “It’s been a tough stretch for us, but we’ve got to keep fighting and doing the things we know we can do. Shoot, these last couple games [losses to the Steelers and Ravens] have been close. We’ve had guys fighting till the end. The effort and the way we’ve been playing — you can’t discredit any of that.”

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