Packers focused on stopping Bears WR Marshall
Greg Jennings thinks Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon
Marshall is a genius.
Marshall had made headlines one day earlier when he went off on
the rival Green Bay Packers during his weekly media availability.
But it was something Marshall said later that Jennings found
brilliant: Marshall’s attempt to bait the Packers into matching
their cornerbacks up with him man-to-man.
Marshall said Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers ”did an
amazing job of game-planning me” in the teams’ Sept. 13 meeting,
in which Marshall caught only two passes for 24 yards in Green
Bay’s 23-10 victory.
Then, Marshall dared the Packers to try to cover him 1-on-1 in
Sunday’s rematch at Soldier Field.
”I didn’t beat double or triple coverage or whatever they were
throwing at us,” Marshall said. ”I take it as a slap in my face
when guys talk about my lack of ability to do something against
them when they have help all over the place. I’m looking forward to
1-on-1 coverage. Hopefully, those guys in games like this may go to
their coach and say, `Let me have him. I want Brandon Marshall. I
want to stop Brandon Marshall. Let me have him 1-on-1, press
coverage.’ And we’ll see what happens.”
On Thursday, Jennings had answered questions for about three
minutes before bringing up – unprompted – what Marshall had
”I think he’s smart for saying whatever he said. So I’m going
to be smart, too,” Jennings said, a wide smile stretching across
his face. ”Man, I wish the Bears would play us 1-on-1 and
”I think he’s smart. That reverse psychology, I think it’s
pretty impressive. So yeah, man, the Bears are always playing cover
2. I think they’re scared not to play cover 2.”
Then, Jennings laughed.
”Hey,” he said, ”I’ll give it a shot.”
The cover 2 defense has been like kryptonite to the Packers’
previously unstoppable offense this season. Using two deep safeties
to take away big plays, the scheme has prevented Green Bay from
replicating last year’s success, when the Packers scored 560 points
(second-most in NFL history) and quarterback Aaron Rodgers won the
NFL MVP by throwing for 45 touchdowns with only six
Later, Jennings called Marshall’s statements a ”tactic.”
”`Play me one-on-one.’ What receiver doesn’t want you to play
man-to-man coverage the entire game?” he said.
Here’s the bad news for Marshall: There’s no way Capers is going
to do that on every down Sunday. Even with cornerback Tramon
Williams’ ability to cover, he’s assured of having help over the
top from a safety much of the time, as he frequently did against
Detroit’s Calvin Johnson in the team’s two games against the Lions
For while Capers’ scheme is certainly complex, one of the main
tenets of the veteran coordinator’s approach is simple: Stop the
opponent’s best players.
Whether it’s Johnson, or Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian
Peterson, or, yes, Marshall, Capers formulates his defensive game
plan each week by asking himself which offensive players could hurt
his defense the most. While the results have varied over the last
few years, the approach has remained the same.
”When we look at an offense, we look at who their top two or
three producers are,” Capers said recently. ”And (we ask), what
do you have to try to do to limit their production? (We’re) going
to say, `Well, this is where we have to start.’
”What do you have to take away to win the game?”
For the Bears, it’s obviously Marshall.
Marshall has caught 101 passes for 1,342 yards and nine
touchdowns, while Chicago’s next three wide receivers have a
combined 65 receptions for 748 yards and five TDs.
Marshall has had seven 100-yard games this season and has caught
at least 10 passes in his last three games. The only other team to
shut him down was San Francisco, which held Marshall to two
receptions for 21 yards Nov. 19, when quarterback Jay Cutler missed
the game with a concussion and backup Jason Campbell started in his
According to safety Morgan Burnett, Capers’ weekly Wednesday
presentation to the defense begins with a portion of the slide show
listing the opposing team’s top players. Even though it’s
self-evident, the emphasis helps remind the Packers of how
important it will be to contain those targets. This Wednesday, the
discussion predictably began with Marshall, Burnett said.
”You know what they like to do. You watch the film; you know
who the go-to guy is,” Burnett said Thursday. ”At the same time,
that doesn’t mean you just ignore everyone else.
”Of course, Brandon Marshall is the go-to guy. But you still
have (other) playmakers in Devin Hester. You have the rookie,
Alshon Jeffery, who’s a big receiver, and then you have (running
back) Matt Forte, who’s a threat in the running game and the