Bears defense awaits Miami 3rd-string QB
Four days removed from a quarterback calamity, the Miami Dolphins turn to a former Chanticleer who is 1-10 as an NFL starter and has taken practice snaps with the offense once this season.
The situation raises lots of questions, among them: What's a Chanticleer?
''A Chanticleer is from 'The Canterbury Tales,''' Tyler Thigpen says. ''It's supposed to be a smart rooster.''
Thigpen's previous claim to fame was as the first quarterback for the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers when their program began in 2003. Now he's the latest QB for the Dolphins (5-4), who face the Chicago Bears on Thursday night.
Miami's playoff hopes took a double whammy when quarterbacks Chad Pennington and Chad Henne were hurt during Sunday's win over Tennessee. Henne, nursing a left knee injury, is expected to return at some point this year, and there's a slight chance he'll be available Thursday. But Pennington, who supplanted Henne as the starter just last week, is out for the season.
Even by the Dolphins' standards, the recent quarterback upheaval is uncommon. They've been accustomed to a revolving door at the position since Dan Marino retired, but this will be the first time in 30 years they've started a different QB in three consecutive games.
Good news, Bears?
''Nah, it's the same for us,'' linebacker Brian Urlacher says. ''It doesn't matter who's the quarterback.''
Maybe not. The Bears (6-3) rank second in the NFL in points allowed and lead the league with 24 takeaways. They've won their past two games and are tied with Green Bay atop the NFC North.
Last week the Bears flummoxed Brett Favre, who has thrown 487 more touchdown passes than Thigpen. To make matters more daunting for the Dolphins, their offensive line is banged up.
But then Thigpen is more accustomed to working with backups anyway. Until Tuesday, his only snaps in practice this season had been with the scout team.
Even with a short week, the Bears likely can't wait for kickoff and a shot at a third-stringer.
''He's going to be fired up,'' defensive end Israel Idonije says. ''For us, it's just business as usual.''
Sounds ominous. The Bears' pass defense leads the NFL in several categories, including quarterback rating (66.7), yards allowed per attempt (5.96) and touchdown passes (six). Now they face a QB making his first start since 2008, when he went 1-10 with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Terrible defense doomed that team, while Thigpen threw for 18 touchdown scores with only 12 interceptions. He gave his passing a passing grade.
''I feel like I did a great job there in Kansas City,'' he says. ''For all the people that are out there doubting me, I want to prove that I can stay in this league and I can be a starter. And for the supporters, thank you for supporting me.''
The Dolphins were impressed when Thigpen threw for a career-high 320 yards and two scores against them in 2008, and after he lost the starting job in Kansas City, they acquired him as a backup last year. When Pennington and Henne were sidelined Sunday, Thigpen came off the bench in the fourth quarter to close out a wild win over Tennessee.
He's more mobile than the two Chads but also smaller at 6-foot-1, which is why he went undrafted until the seventh round in 2007.
''Tyler definitely plays the game differently than the other two guys,'' Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall says. ''There's some negative, and there are some positives. I think he is a guy that is more than capable of making plays for us.''
Thigpen will try to succeed where Favre, Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo failed - all lost to Chicago this year. The Bears rank second in the NFL in run defense, and Miami hasn't had a 100-yard rusher all season, so Thigpen will likely be forced to throw a lot.
Or run. Or go out for a pass.
Miami tried two flea-flickers and revived the wildcat Sunday, and with Thigpen at quarterback, anything's possible. In 2008, he ran for three scores and had a 37-yard touchdown catch.
''He can run the ball as well as throw it,'' says Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey, who was Thigpen's offensive coordinator in Kansas City. ''He's fearless. He doesn't mind throwing it into a crowd and expecting the guy to make a play for him. I like Tyler. I think he'll do well.''
The former Chanticleer expects to do well, too. Thigpen decided to attended Coastal Carolina because the new program offered him a free education.
He learned a lot.
''It was a great opportunity from the start to finish,'' Thigpen says. ''It makes you thankful for a lot of things. We practiced on tennis courts, driving ranges. Now you can say, 'Hey, I've seen worse, I've been through worse.' There's nothing you can throw at me that I haven't done.''
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow in Buffalo, N.Y., contributed to this report.