In the Chicago Bears' Week 1 game against the Indianapolis Colts, Brandon Marshall was targeted by Jay Cutler about three times more often than any other Bears receiver. Different sites have different information on how often he (and other Bears) were targeted, but from what I could see, he was thrown at 16 times. A total of 14 of those plays counted.
Marshall made nine receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown, and also drew two defensive pass interference penalties in the end zone (the two targets that didn't count). Out of the five incomplete passes that were directed Marshall's way, I found no outright drops, two catches Marshall probably should have made, two great defensive plays and one awful decision by Cutler.
After the jump, I chronicle each one of Marshall's targets to get a better idea of how the Bears are using him and why he's being targeted so much more often than other receivers.
1. 1st quarter, 10:42 remaining. 3rd down and 10: Marshall lined up wide right. He runs a deep in route past the sticks. Cutler is pressured and scrambles to his right. Marshall does well to separate from Vontae Davis and comes back to the ball a bit to give Cutler an easy throw.
2. 1st quarter, 9:04 remaining. 2nd down and 10: Marshall lined up wide left. He runs a go pattern and is covered man-to-man by Jerraud Powers. Cutler likes his chances in this man-to-man matchup, as he should, but Powers gets the better position and out-jumps Marshall to deflect the ball away. If Cutler threw the ball a bit more inside, it would have been a touchdown. Powers seemed to anticipate Cutler going to the back shoulder.
3 (nullified by penalty). 1st quarter, 8:17 remaining. 1st down and goal: Marshall lined up wide left. Cutler ties the fade. Cassius Vaughn absolutely blankets Marshall, in the bad way. An obvious defensive pass interference call is made.
4. 1st quarter, 4:19 remaining. 1st down and 10: Marshall lined up wide left. Alshon Jeffery, lined up slot left, goes in motion to the right side. Play action, Cutler throws to the middle on a short post pattern. It's an ill-advised throw; Marshall has a guy ready to knock his head off if he makes a catch and a guy -- Tom Zbikowski -- in front of him. Zbikowski gets his hand to the ball and tips it away.
5. 1st quarter, 3:59 remaining. 3rd down and 7: Marshall lined up wide right, three wide receiver set, slot left. Stop and go route for Marshall helps him get a step on the corner, but there's safety help over the top. Again, Cutler's throw is a bit risky. Antoine Bethea is there to break up the pass. Marshall actually got his hands on it and could have made a play. A pretty good throw into a tight space, even if it was risky.
6. 1st quarter, 1:25 remaining. 1st down and 10: Marshal lined up wide left. Runs a quick in, his man is giving heavy cushion. Easy completion for Cutler.
7. 2nd quarter, 13:40 remaining. 1st down and 10: Marshall lined up wide left. Beats his man off the jam, Cutler makes a sick through that barely sneaks over Powers' outstretched hand, hitting Marshall perfectly between Powers and Bethea.
8. 2nd quarter, 13:18 remaining. 1st down and 10: Marshall lined up wide left. Play action, Cutler rushed and takes too long to throw. Marshall runs 7-yard in route, breaks it off and cuts back towards the sideline. Cutler throws but Powers is in good position and deflects the ball away. Back and end stayed in to block, he didn't have an easier checkdown available. Odd play design.
9. 2nd quarter, 10:37 remaining. 1st down and goal: Marshall lined up wide right. Three receiver set, slot left. Marshall gets a cushion from his man and runs a hook. Davis doesn't even contest it. Easy touchdown pass.
10. 2nd quarter, 9:40 remaining. 1st down and 10: Marshall lined up slot left, no one outside of him once Hester goes in motion. This apparently confuses the Colts defense, because Marshall is allowed to run down the field untouched, then come back to the ball for a simple, almost uncontested 24-yard completion down the middle. Awful defense.
11. 2nd quarter, 2:26 remaining. 1st down and 10: Marshall lined up slot right in three-receiver set, runs a post. Justin King gets in front of him and knocks the ball down. Cutler threw into a lot of traffic. He had time and a wide-open checkdown, on 1st down. A very poor decision.
12. 2nd quarter, 1:28 remaining. 2nd down and 8: Marshall lined up wide left in a three-receiver set, slot left. Beats a jam and runs a 5-yard in. Has a ton of space and Cutler hits the open Marshall in stride. Gets a lot of yards after the catch. Very soft coverage.
13 (nullified by penalty). 2nd quarter, 0:50 remaining. 1st down and goal: Marshall lined up wide right in three-receiver set, slot left. Cutler goes for the fade and Davis gets caught for pass interference, another DPI in the end zone on Marshall for the Colts. This one is less obvious, but it's the correct call.
14. 3rd quarter, 10:09 remaining. 3rd down and 6: Marshall lined up slot right in three-receiver set. Runs a slant, Cutler throws a great ball. It looks risky at first, but he put it low where only Marshall can get it, between two defensive players. Marshall gets his hands on it but can't haul it in. It was a tough catch, but one a player of his caliber should make more often than not, especially in the end zone on 3rd down.
15. 3rd quarter, 1:02 remaining. 3rd down and 13: Marshall lined up wide left in a three-receiver set, slot right. Runs a quick slant and Cutler hits him perfectly. Powers makes the tackle, but not easily as Marshall drags him for a few extra yards. Marshall is still a yard short of the first down. Lovie Smith challenges the spot because of course he does.
16. 4th quarter, 9:39 remaining. 2nd down and 9: Marshall lined up wide left. Simple go pattern, Cutler hits him after about 15 yards. Perfect slow slightly behind him, and Powers is made to look reaaaaaaally silly. Great route, throw, catch, and run after the catch for a 22-yard reception.
- Brandon Marshall is a monster, but this isn't news. He's always been a Pro Bowl quality player. He's just inconsistent.
- Cutler definitely favors Marshall, but it's not like he's making terrible decisions to go to him all the time. He had a better option on a third of these targets, at the most.
- There is no particular spot that Marshall gets lined up in. Mike Tice is doing a good job of moving him around. It will be interesting to see if Dom Capers moves his corners around to account for him. I do not want to see a lot of Marshall against Jarrett Bush. I fear we are going to see a lot of that, though.
- As a random note that may or may not be very meaningful, Marshall rarely has the slot receiver on his side in three-receiver sets.
- I am predicting at least one interception by M.D. Jennings, Morgan Burnett or Charles Woodson, specifically on a pass intended for Marshall, in tonight's game. At least once, Cutler is going to get busted telegraphing his pass to Marshall and a safety is going to jump the route perfectly.
Previous Packers vs. Bears Coverage:
Packers vs. Bears preview | Series History | Best rivalry in football? | Week 2 Fantasy Sit/Start Advice | Week 2 Fantasy Preview: Big Day For Finley | Key Matchup #1: Gabe Carimi vs. Nick Perry | Key Matchup #2: Cedric Benson vs. His Old Team | Key Matchup #3: Tramon Williams vs. Brandon Marshall | Injury Report
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