GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 23: Wide receiver Brandon Marshall #15 of the Chicago Bears celebrates with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery #17 after a 11 yard touchdown reception against the Arizona Cardinals during the second quarter of the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 23, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
It is a rare occasion for the Chicago Bears to have one franchise wide receiver, but rarer still are the times that they actually have two of them, and they may just have that in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall.
In Monday night’s 45-28 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at Soldier Field, both players came to play in a big way. Marshall led the way with six catches for 100 yards, but Jeffery wasn’t that far behind getting one fewer reception but one more target en route to racking up 84 yards and a touchdown through the air.
The duo also made some history of their own in a big picture sense too. Marshall eclipsed the 1000 yard receiving mark for the season with his performance on Monday, and in addition to that marking the seventh consecutive season in which he has achieved that milestone, it also gave the Bears their first pair of 1000 yard receivers since Curtis Conway and Jeff Graham accomplished the feat in 1995. It’s only the second time in team history that it’s happened, and even though the Graham-Conway connection was a one-off thing, all indications are pointing to the Jeffery-Marshall pairing being a much more profitable enterprise.
Consider the different ways that the guys impacted the game on Monday night. Both guys are capable of providing some serious flash for the Bears, judging by the multiple spectacular catches that both players made in the game, including Jeffery’s remarkable grab in the end zone near the end of the first half where he beat out two Cowboys defenders on a jump ball. Marshall also made several key grabs over the middle of the field for first downs, and he also caught a ball in tight coverage in the end zone for a two point conversion to put the Bears up 21 points and really take the wind out of Dallas’ sales.
In addition to that flash though, the Bears’ receivers also provide some booming thunder with their zealous downfield blocking. Marshall starred in that area in a big way in this one, with his huge block on Cowboys LB Sean Lee that enabled Josh McCown to scramble for a first down in the second quarter. Later in the game on a screen pass to Matt Forte, it was once again Marshall leading the way, drilling a Cowboys defender at the goal line to help Forte get into the end zone.
While most pundits focus on the amazing plays that the Bears’ receivers can make thanks to their size, speed, and athleticism, it is perhaps that eager embrace of an often-neglected artform that makes them so special. Both Marshall and Jeffery have both made it a point this season of making sure that they are constantly trying to block downfield both for each other and for their other teammates, and it’s clear that this decision to do so has had a great impact on the chemistry of the offense.
This is a group of guys that clearly has bought into Marc Trestman’s system and has really bonded as a unit, and as Marshall said in an interview with ESPN after the game, the offense is excited to see what they are capable of doing if they are already making this kind of progress in their first year together.