Bears-Lions will be Barkley's first road start
Two weeks ago, quarterback Matt Barkley made his first NFL start in the Chicago Bears' 27-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
One week ago, the four-year veteran picked up his first NFL win in the Bears' 26-6 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
This week Barkley takes his show on the road for the first time as a starter, as the 3-9 Bears face the 8-4 Lions indoors at Detroit's Ford Field.
"It's definitely a different set of circumstances," Bears coach John Fox said. "It's a challenge. We've been practicing in pretty heavy noise over there (inside) the Payton Center, and we'll see how that transpires there in Detroit."
Barkley had thrown just 50 passes in the NFL before he saw his first game action as a Bear. That was Oct. 20, in relief of Brian Hoyer, who was pulverized by the Packers in their 26-10 victory in Green Bay.
He's still a long way from being considered a seasoned veteran, but Barkley isn't playing like an inexperienced youngster. After starting 36 games at USC, it's not as if playing on a big stage is a foreign concept to him.
"It kind of was like riding a bike to be honest," he said. "Once you have a full week of (practice) reps under your belt and you get into that flow, it picked up where it left off from college."
His last start at USC was four years ago, but Barkley clearly had not forgotten what it takes to succeed at what many consider the most difficult job in all of sports.
"He's done a really good job of coming in and having great command and poise in the pocket and control in the huddle," Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. "In my opinion, where he's really stood out is, when we've been in our no-huddle, two-minute situations. He's done a nice job that way."
It was that type of hurry-up mode in the final 1:43 of the first half last week that got Barkley rolling. He completed 4 of 5 passes for 64 yards, leading the Bears to a touchdown and a 7-6 halftime lead. He finished with a 97.5 passer rating, throwing for 192 yards on just 18 passes and 11 completions.
Loggains believes Barkley has shown "the mental makeup and the intangibles, the qualities that you look for in a quarterback."
He says that manifests itself in the way Barkley has come in and owned the position and led the offense, even though he didn't join the Bears until the first week in September and didn't take first-team reps until the last week in November.
"I don't think Matt's flinched at all," Loggains said. "Matt knows who he is. He's a quiet guy, he's a leader, he's an 'encourager.' He talks to guys a lot. The biggest difference (since he became the starter) is how other guys respond to him, how open he is with those guys and how well he communicates with them."
The difficulty factor gets ratcheted up a few notches this week, playing in front of a loud, hostile crowd. But last week was the first time Barkley had ever played in the snow, and he responded with the best game of his young career.
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