IRVING, Texas – The Cowboy's return to Chicago on Thursday is not only insulated with motivation from last year's embarrassing 45-28 blowout to the Bears, but also serves a reunion of sorts for a pair of Henry Melton and Rod Marinelli.
The defensive lineman was drafted in the fourth round by Chicago, spent five years there and even earned a Pro Bowl bid in 2012. Melton totaled 15.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries in 48 games with the Bears, all the while playing for Marinelli, Chicago's defensive coordinator for three seasons.
Melton was given the franchise tag in 2013 as a reward for being a crucial part to the Bears defense, only to then tear his anterior cruciate ligament three games into the deal, and Chicago didn't attempt to keep him in the offseason.
Melton decided to reunite with Marinelli, as the two head back to Soldier Field with double motivation.
"It would feel good, just getting a win is going to feel good," he said. "But if we get a win versus my old team, it's even better."
Melton's preparation and excitement for this game is palpable even to his teammates.
"I think Henry and Coach (Rod) Marinelli are ready to play a great game," said Jeremy Mincey. "We definitely got their backs."
Melton signed with the Cowboys on a one-year deal, knowing the Chicago game would eventually come around and now it has.
"I don't want to say it's been circled, but I've been looking forward to it."
Everyone associated with the Cowboys defense is looking forward to it just to get that bad taste of Thanksgiving dinner out of their mouths.
"We just want to get back on track this week," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "No panic just poise."
Marinelli served as assistant head coach and defensive line coach in 2009, and then was promoted to defensive coordinator in the following three seasons.
"I had a terrific four years there and it couldn't have been better," he said. "I love the players there and it's another good ballgame for us."
And another opportunity for Dallas to rid themselves of slow starts defensively, a problem Marinelli hopes will change against his old team.
"When you have your opportunities to get off on third down and you're playing really high explosive offenses you have to get off the field, it's a must," Marinelli said.
The Cowboys find themselves in a fight to the finish with four games left on the schedule.
Also making their return to Chicago is quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson and fullback Tyler Clutts. Wilson held the same title with the Bears from 2004-2006, while Clutts appeared in all 16 games for Chicago during the 2011 season with eight starts, recording eight receptions for 48 yards.