“We’ve got a lot of guys who can make plays,” receiver Earl Bennett explained following the Bears 45-28 stomping of the Dallas Cowboys. “Once those guys are given the opportunity, the sky’s the limit.”
Marshall and Jeffery proved that against the Cowboys, with the duo combining for 11 catches for 184 yards and a touchdown. They played a major role in the team converting 73 percent of its third-down attempts.
Although Marshall led the Bears with six catches for 100 yards, Jeffery made perhaps the game’s most difficult -- not to mention most exciting -- catch of the night. The play came just 10 seconds before the half when Jeffery jumped to haul in Josh McCown's 25-yard pass in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. The scoring play led to the Bears putting up 10 points on the Cowboys in a matter of one minute and 23 seconds on the way to taking a 24-14 lead into intermission.
Bennett called Jeffery’s TD catch between a pair of Cowboys defenders “crazy,” while cornerback Tim Jennings called the grab “ridiculous.”
Marshall said he expected “a touchdown” as soon as the play was called.
“We got a touchdown. We didn’t know it was going to be so sweet,” Marshall said. “I just embraced him. Held him, [and told him] ‘You’re awesome.’ Me and Earl [Bennett] were on the sideline. Earl brought it up and [Jeffery] had the best deep-ball skill of anybody in the game; maybe even ever. He’s just a freak.”
Jeffery explained the touchdown grab before the half was the “same play we ran against Minnesota” last week, when the receiver reached up high to pull down a 46-yard TD in the third quarter of the team's loss, despite a Vikings defender draped all over him.
“Just throw it up, and make the catch,” Jeffery said. “It’s just something I practice all the time, something we’re always taught. It’s just a natural instinct to keep the ball away from the defender and have strong hands.”
In addition to the sure hands, Jeffery made sure to get both feet down on the ground inbounds.
“His catch was unreal,” said McCown. “I just know those guys will make plays [when the ball is thrown their way]. I trust them all the time.”
With Marshall drawing so much extra attention from defenses, Jeffery has capitalized by destroying opponents in one-on-one situations. But that dynamic has also allowed Chicago’s quarterbacks to spread the ball around to other players such as tight end Martellus Bennett and running back Matt Forte, who combined for 12 grabs for 116 yards and a TD.
During the offseason, Marshall invited Jeffery out to Florida to train in preparation for this season, and the veteran is glad the extra work has paid dividends for the second-year receiver.
Through the first 13 games, Marshall and Jeffery have combined for 159 receptions for 2,283 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“We all knew what [Jeffery] was capable of doing,” Marshall said. “He’s not just helping me out. He’s helping the special teams, defense, the whole organization. He’s just special.”