Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall is a guy who fans of the team have come to love, but he definitely comes with some foibles that rub some folks the wrong way.
The occasional exasperated quotes about not having the offense fully mastered don’t sit well with some fans. For others, it’s his attitude surrounding the limited numbers of targets he gets some weeks, like after the Bears’ Week 5 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Finally, some people don’t like the distractions that he seems to cause, like with his decision to wear green cleats on Thursday night, which is an action that will draw a fine from the league.
Whatever the case may be though, there is no denying that when Marshall is at the top of his game, he is easily one of the top five wide receivers in the NFL, and that’s exactly what he was on Thursday night for the Bears.
On 11 targets in the game, Marshall ended up with nine catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns. Alshon Jeffery, the guy who set a Bears record last week with 218 receiving yards and incurred a bit of jealousy from Marshall, only was targeted five times and had one catch for 27 yards in the game.
Marshall’s play could be credited to his statements causing Marc Trestman to revolve more of the play-calling around him, but the more accurate description would be to say that Cutler and Marshall took what the Giants’ defense was giving them. By running zone coverages in all areas of the field, Marshall was able to get easy releases and run clean routes, thereby giving Cutler a lot of room in which to throw the athletic Marshall the ball.
Even when the Giants did have good coverage on Marshall, there were still plays that he displayed his prowess anyway. Late in the first quarter, Cutler threw a high ball over the outstretched arms of New York safety Antrel Rolle and Marshall made a remarkable leaping catch to give the Bears a first down. It was a great throw by Cutler to put the ball in a spot where only Marshall could get it, but it was also an excellent catch by the All-Pro wideout too.
The Giants’ coverage breakdowns proved even more costly than that, however. On Marshall’s first touchdown, Rolle let Marshall go by him near the 5-yard line, safety Will Hill wasn’t fast enough in coming over to help out, and Cutler had an easy pitch and catch with his favorite receiver to give the Bears the lead.
On the second Marshall TD, the Giants tried a bit more of a man-to-man defense (as opposed to the zone that got burnt during the previous red zone trip for the Bears), but again Marshall was able to beat it. He made contact with CB Terrell Thomas in the end zone, but rather than continuing on the route, he cut back towards the goal line, and Cutler fired a strike to give the Bears back the lead at 21-14.
With his ability to go up and get the ball out of the air, Cutler and Trestman’s ability to spot weaknesses in a defense to get him into open space, and his penchant for fighting off man-to-man coverage with his physical strength, Marshall is a freak of nature at the wide receiver position. If he can focus on doing those kinds of things like he did on Thursday night, and not get bogged down in media narratives, then he will continue to be a huge asset to the Bears as they try to stay in the NFC playoff hunt this season and beyond.