Bears’ Brandon Marshall faces stiff test in Seahawks cornerbacks
BY ADAM L. JAHNS email@example.com November 30, 2012 9:34PM
Brandon Marshall has accounted for 46 percent of the Bears’ receiving yards. He probably will need some help against the Seahawks. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
THE SEATTLE SHUTDOWN
Seahawks cornerbacks Richard Sherman (top) and Brandon Browner (bottom) have limited plenty of top receivers this season. Take a look:
Player, team Targeted Catches Yards TDs
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals 11 4 63 0
Greg Jennings, Packers 10 6 35 0
Steve Smith, Panthers 13 4 40 0
Calvin Johnson, Lions 8 3 46 0
Percy Harvin, Vikings 6 2 10 0
Updated: January 2, 2013 6:12AM
The list of receivers contained by Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, the Seattle Seahawks’ big, fast and contentious cornerbacks, is impressive.
Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson and Steve Smith are on it, and up next is the Bears’ Brandon Marshall.
“I’ve been excited about this game for some time just because of that,” Marshall said.
But it might expose the Bears’ lack of depth at receiver and tight end.
One of the Bears’ biggest concerns is getting consistent production from Jay Cutler’s secondary options. Those players view Sunday as a chance to show any concern is overblown.
“It’s always important [to have others contribute],” tight end Matt Spaeth said. “You always can’t have just one guy that you go to all time. But you’re only worried about getting open.”
Marshall has accounted for 1,017 of the Bears’ 2,203 receiving yards (46 percent) and 81 of their 200 receptions (40 percent).
There are reasons for that. Alshon Jeffery has been hurt, but Cutler said that when he feels Marshall is “in that zone,” he tries “to feed him the ball.” Offensive coordinator Mike Tice’s game plans also have called for more protection to compensate for the offensive line’s woes.
But if the Seahawks are able to limit Marshall, someone has to step up.
In the Bears’ losses to the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers, Marshall totaled four catches for 45 yards and a late touchdown. In the Bears’ 13-6 loss to the Houston Texans, Marshall had eight catches for 107 yards, but he had only two catches for 21 yards in the first half.
With Sherman (6-3) and Browner (6-4), the Seahawks have the size to contend with Marshall. According to Pro Football Focus, Sherman has allowed only 27 receptions and one touchdown this season, despite receivers he has covered being targeted 57 times. Browner is performing just as well, allowing 29 catches on 55 targets.
“It’s different, obviously, because it’s not what we call the prototypical corner,” Marshall said. “They present some different challenges.”
The Bears’ victory against the Minnesota Vikings provided glimpses of what others can do even if Marshall is producing. Bennett and Davis had key catches, and Spaeth had a highlight-reel touchdown catch.
With Jeffery (knee) and Devin Hester (concussion) both out, more burden falls on Bennett.
“I’m a team player,” Bennett said. “I’m a guy that, as long as we win, I’m all right. We’ve been winning and Brandon’s been making plays. [I’m] just staying patient until my number’s called, and that’s when I’ll make plays.”
That should come Sunday as the Seahawks throw various coverages at Marshall.
With another game plan full of short passes and runs expected, Cutler’s best options at times might be Matt Forte and Evan Rodriguez coming out of the backfield. Forte’s decrease in production in the passing game is a big difference from last season.
“It’s difficult right now to try to get involved when you’re trying to establish the run so much,” Forte said. “I think it all will come along. It doesn’t matter when or how many catches I make to have me be effective.”
Rodriguez said the Bears have the players to exploit the Seahawks’ fifth-ranked defense.
“Brandon is going to do what he does,” he said. “That’s going to leave other guys free. Whoever they leave free is going to make a play. People have to make plays. There’s going to be opportunities.”