Chicago Bears: Brandon Marshall

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Initially, Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman described Jay Cutler's second interception in Week 4’s 38-17 home loss to the Green Bay Packers as a miscommunication between Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall, where Marshall “was supposed to run a hook route deep at 18 yards and he turned it into a go route.”

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On Monday, Trestman offered a slightly different explanation of the late third-quarter play where Packers cornerback Sam Shields picked off a Cutler deep ball intended for Marshall on the right side of the field.

“I want to be really specific on that,” Trestman said. “No. 1 is, we give Brandon and Jay opportunities -- and we’ve done this throughout the last two years -- where they’re communicating verbally or visually during the course of a game on changing routes. They had a communication error there. You can’t put it on any one person, and that wasn’t the case. What I said yesterday clearly was, the called play to Jay was a deep hook route, but they do have the flexibility to change that. Brandon ran a very good hook and go off a corner who was squatting on him. They just had a miscommunication -- the signal -- and they’ve done this countless times in the last couple years. This is one where there was a communication error between the two of them.”

Marshall has been dealing with an ankle injury he originally sustained in the regular-season opener versus the Buffalo Bills. Marshall overcame the sore ankle in Week 2, catching three touchdown passes in a road victory against San Francisco, but he had only three combined receptions versus the New York Jets and Green Bay the last two games.

The Bears have understandably rested Marshall at practice. The wide receiver sat out the entire week of practice leading up the Packers game but still played 68 of the offense’s 78 total snaps.

Is the lack of practice time hurting Cutler and Marshall's communication?

“Honestly, that would be reading way too far into it,” Trestman said. “This is something they’ve been doing not only the last year and a half here that I’ve observed but throughout their careers together. Actually, before the game this week [Marshall’s ankle] probably looked better and felt better than it had the last two weeks. We were certainly optimistic, and then walking through all the plays on Saturday, not only with the team but afterwards with [wide receiver coach] Mike [Groh], he seemed to be right on top of the game plan. So we knew he had been doing some work as well in that regard.

“That process has been going on. Brandon was ready to play. We’re going to take a good look at him this week to make sure he’s continuing to progress and he’s not getting any worse.”
CHICAGO -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Bears’ 38-17 loss to Green Bay:

Brandon Marshall caught just two passes for 19 yards and a touchdown in the loss to the Green Bay Packers, and his miscommunication with quarterback Jay Cutler led to a Sam Shields interception in the fourth quarter.

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Marshall declined to speak with reporters as he dressed in the locker room. He did the same after the club’s win over the New York Jets on Monday night, a game in which Marshall caught only one pass for 6 yards.

Cutler also said he wasn’t able to speak with Marshall after the game because “he was upset.”

Bears didn’t blitz: Lance Briggs said the Bears didn’t blitz at all Sunday as Aaron Rodgers picked apart the defense for 302 yards and four touchdowns. That certainly makes some sense considering Rodgers seemed to have plenty of time to diagnose and find open receivers.

Opposite day? With a camouflage roller bag parked in front of his locker, running back Matt Forte held court with reporters wearing a black shirt emblazoned with the word “Happy” in large white letters. Forte rushed for 122 yards on 23 attempts in the loss.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears released their final injury report Friday heading into Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers with receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) and defensive end Jared Allen (illness) listed as questionable.

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The club held out Marshall and Allen from Friday’s practice, and officially ruled out center Roberto Garza (ankle), left guard Matt Slauson (ankle), linebacker Shea McClellin (hand), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps) and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion).

Allen visited the team facilities briefly on Friday, but was sent home by the athletic training staff to recuperate.

"He’s just back there resting, but you know where I’m going with this," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "It’s not that things aren’t looking good because he went home. I couldn’t tell you that. I’ll leave it up to the trainers, really the doctors. They have to let us know where he’s at, and hopefully he’ll be ready to go. I really can’t tell you what it is. He just hasn’t been feeling well, and that’s been day to day."

As for Marshall, it’s still unknown whether he will be sufficiently healed from a sprained right ankle suffered in the season opener to make a meaningful contribution to the club’s offense. Marshall was hobbled during the team’s Week 2 matchup at San Francisco, but healthy enough to contribute three touchdown receptions.

Against the Jets on Monday night, Marshall caught only one pass for 6 yards. The short turnaround with the Bears playing a Monday night contest also lessens the receiver’s prospects for making a sufficient recovery. Marshall hasn’t practiced all week.

"It’s very difficult to be at your best when you don’t practice every day and there’s timing issues, there’s different formations, there’s different looks,” Trestman said. “So that’s a challenge, and you have to weigh those costs and benefits as you move through the week knowing that he may or may not play. So we’ll try to work through that, and if he’s going to play, work hard to put him in position where things we can give him he knows what to do and can play at full speed."

In other news, safety Chris Conte (shoulder) was officially listed as questionable. Safety Ryan Mundy (stinger) is probable, as is defensive end Trevor Scott (foot).

If Allen can’t play against the Packers, the Bears will insert Willie Young into the starting lineup opposite Lamarr Houston.

"Obviously it’s an opportunity, but at the same time, Jared would be missed," Young said. "Hopefully, we still have some leadership and his presence on the sidelines. We’re professionals here. When one guy goes down we’ve got to look for guys to step up and be effective. But I haven’t heard anything yet [whether Allen will play]. That’s gonna be a game-time decision I guess. I have no idea."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman announced Wednesday that strongside linebacker Shea McClellin will miss his second consecutive game Sunday when the club hosts the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field.

Trestman called McClellin “week-to-week,” but also said the third-year linebacker won’t be working out with the team this week. McClellin broke his right hand last week during practice.

In other injury news, Trestman said he’s “not optimistic, quite frankly” about the potential availability of starting center Roberto Garza (ankle) and left guard Matt Slauson (ankle) for the matchup versus the Packers.

“But it is possible they could be ready to go on Thursday and Friday at practice,” Trestman said. “But it’s day-to-day and we’ll stay with the injury report on that.”

Despite the injuries, the club’s fill-ins at McClellin’s linebacker spot and along the offensive line have performed well.

Second-year pro Jon Bostic replaced McClellin in the starting lineup Monday night against the Jets, and racked up a career-high 13 tackles to go with a couple of pass breakups.

“Very good to the football,” Trestman said of Bostic’s performance. “Obviously, we’d love him to catch that ball [for an interception] there at the end of the game. But other than that, I thought he took on blocks at the line of scrimmage, at the point. He fit the run and ran to the ball. Really, I thought he played well and used his athleticism and physicality to really help our football team.”

Up front, Brian de la Puente replaced Garza in the starting lineup, while Michael Ola filled in for Slauson. The duo has filled in now for two games, as the offensive line has surrendered a total of six sacks in that span.

Because of the short week of preparation coming off Monday night’s win over the New York Jets, the Bears took part in walk-throughs instead of a full workout. Had the Bears practiced, defensive end Jared Allen (illness), fullback Tony Fiammetta (hamstring), Garza, Slauson, receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps), and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion) would have been non-participants. Safeties Ryan Mundy (shoulder) and Chris Conte (shoulder) would have been limited.

Mundy suffered what he called a “serious stinger” against the Jets.

“I’m feeling good right now and just doing the necessary things I need to do to make sure I’m ready to play on Sunday,” Mundy said.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears announced Saturday they'd face the New York Jets on Monday night without center Roberto Garza (ankle), left guard Matt Slauson (ankle), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps), defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion) and linebacker Shea McClellin (hand).

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The club held out all five players for Saturday's workout. Receivers Brandon Marshall (ankle) and Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) participated in a limited capacity, and are officially listed as questionable. Both are expected to play against the Jets.

In other injury news, the club officially listed defensive end Jared Allen (back), safety Chris Conte (shoulder) and receiver Josh Morgan (groin) as probable. Defensive end Trevor Scott (foot) is doubtful.

It was expected that Garza and Slauson would miss Monday's game after sitting out last week's win against the San Francisco 49ers, with Brian de la Puente and Michael Ola serving as their replacements. But the unavailability of Ratliff and McClellin forces the Bears to reshuffle the lineup for the starting defense.

With Ratliff out of the defensive line rotation, the Bears will lean more heavily on rookies Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton.

"That Sunday night game was a big test, and they played a decent amount of snaps," Allen said. "The game didn't seem too big for them, and sometimes that can be a problem with young guys. They kind of lose their minds out there, and they don't really remember their techniques or fundamentals. But they've been doing a great job of that. Both of them are powerful, and both of them have obviously a high skill set."

McClellin's expected absence means Jonathan Bostic will start at strong side linebacker.

McClellin participated on a limited basis on Thursday, but suffered a hand injury at practice that kept him out of action on Friday and Saturday.

"We've got a lot of different options," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "We're disappointed for [McClellin] because he has been getting better. We've watched him so hard to learn a new position, get his body the way he's gotten it to play the position. We know he'll be out this week. We'll see where we are next week."

Allen practices, Marshall sits

September, 19, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears defensive end Jared Allen (lower back) practiced without restrictions on Friday, but wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) remained sidelined for a second consecutive day.

 Marshall and Allen are both expected to play Monday night versus the New York Jets.

Besides Marshall, six other Bears were held out of Friday’s practice: defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff
(concussion), linebacker Shea McClellin (hand), defensive end Trevor Scott (foot), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quad), center Roberto Garza (ankle) and left guard Matt Slauson (ankle).

McClellin’s situation took a turn for the worse. The linebacker had limited in participation in practice on Thursday, but he sat out the entire workout on Friday.

According to head coach Marc Trestman, McClellin suffered the hand injury in practice this week, not during the 28-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2.

In other health news, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) and safety Chris Conte (shoulder) were both limited for the second straight practice, while receiver Josh Morgan (groin) had full participation. Morgan should be available to face the Jets.

Seven players sit out Thursday practice

September, 18, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears held seven players out of Thursday’s practice in advance of Monday’s night road game versus the New York Jets: center Roberto Garza (ankle), left guard Matt Slauson (ankle), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quad), defensive end Trevor Scott (foot), defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion), wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) and defensive end Jared Allen (back).

 The Bears still have two more days of practice before the team departs for the New York/New Jersey area on Sunday afternoon.

In more encouraging news, safety Chris Conte practiced on a limited basis on Thursday after being forced to leave the 49ers game early because of a shoulder injury. Conte is tied for the team lead with two interceptions over the first two weeks of the regular season.

The Bears also listed wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) as having limited participation. Jeffery was a game-time decision in Week 2 but still managed to have three catches for 47 yards. The Bears admitted afterwards that Jeffery played at less than full strength.

Linebacker Shea McClellin (limited) is dealing with a hand injury.

Wide receiver Josh Morgan practiced without restrictions on Thursday after a groin injury sidelined him for the 49ers game.

Five things we learned vs. 49ers

September, 15, 2014
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Here are five things we learned in the Chicago Bears' 28-20 victory against the San Francisco 49ers:

1. NFL is a wild league: Never envisioned the Bears defeating the 49ers in brand new Levi’s Stadium. Especially not after the Bears lost at home in Week 1 to the Buffalo Bills, while San Francisco went on the road and dismantled Dallas. But the NFL is fluid. Calling it a week-to-week league isn’t simply a cliché. It’s the truth. You just never really know what is going to happen on any given Sunday. That is what makes it fun. Would I pick the 49ers again if the two teams re-match in the playoffs? Absolutely. In a heartbeat. But even though I still firmly believe San Francisco is the more talented team, the Bears won on Sunday night. The NFL is unpredictable. Embrace it. I mean, the Bills are 2-0. What is this football world coming to?

[+] EnlargeJon Bostic
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezJon Bostic and the defense kept the Bears in the game until the offense found a spark.
2. Proud effort on defense: It took the offense until the end of the first half to have a pulse, but the defense came to play from the opening whistle. The 49ers seemed poised to blow the game wide open, but the defense held San Francisco to only 17 first-half points. That is a major accomplishment when you consider the offense and special teams put the defense in bad spots with penalties and poor play. Mel Tucker’s defense produced four turnovers, limited the 49ers to 129 yards rushing, and sacked Colin Kaepernick four times. Not even key injuries to Charles Tillman (triceps), Chris Conte (shoulder) and Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion) slowed the group down.

3. Kyle Fuller belongs: Fuller is fast approaching Kyle Long status: a first-round draft choice talented and smart enough to make an immediate impact. Fuller looks to be a keeper. His two fourth-quarter interceptions were critical plays. If Fuller fails to get a turnover on either occasion, who knows if the outcome of the game would have changed. It is entirely possible the Bears lose without Fuller’s heroics. The plan always called for Fuller to contribute as a rookie. But Tillman’s injury opens the door for Fuller to get a jump on permanently lining up at cornerback in the base defense, not just in the nickel sub-package. Fuller seems to have adapted to life in the NFL. Not every game will be great. A cornerback will have his share of bad moments versus the plethora of great receivers in the league. But Fuller appears to be confident and mature enough to handle it.

4. Credit to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery: The Pro Bowl wide receiver tandem played at less than full-strength in Week 2. But Marshall (ankle) and Jeffery (hamstring) pushed past their respective injuries. Marshall, in particular, had a memorable performance with three touchdown catches, including a spectacular one-handed grab on a 17 yard score in the closing seconds of the first half. Jeffery managed to haul in just three passes for 47 yards, but his mere on-field presence aided the Bears’ offense. The extra day before the Week 3 Monday night game against the New York Jets should help the wideouts further heal.

5. What’s worse, special teams or officiating? Pat O'Donnell's 47.6 yard per punt average (32.3 net) saved the Bears from complete embarrassment on special teams. But that phase of the team needs to get its act together. Penalties, blocked punts, lackluster returns ... we’ve seen it all in 2014. Another team that has been suspect is the officiating. The game took forever on Sunday, partly because the officials tossed 26 flags that were accepted. Many more were declined or waived off. Too many. The flow of the game is being stunted by all the yellow flags. I’ve also noticed it is taking certain crews much longer to come to a consensus on calls or explain why a decision is made. Come on everybody, the preseason is over. Act like it.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Strolling through a dark hallway in the empty visitor's locker room at Levi's Stadium after a 28-20 win Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall stopped to lean his rolling bag against the wall.

"I can't tell you everything, man," he said.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Marshall
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesBrandon Marshall caught three touchdown passes for the second time in his career, including a one-handed grab before halftime that sparked the Bears.
Chicago overcame a dismal opening half in which San Francisco's defensive backs -- armed with the knowledge Marshall and Alshon Jeffery were hobbled all week by injuries -- sat on every route, basically daring the Bears to try to throw it deep. The game plan worked beautifully early on for the 49ers, given Marshall and Jeffery weren't at full speed and never improved. Yet Chicago found a way to overcome it.

The Bears made subtle adjustments in the way quarterback Jay Cutler targeted his outside threats, and the club took advantage of short fields provided by Kyle Fuller's two interceptions. The result was that the receivers were able to outmuscle San Francisco's defensive backs as Marshall caught three touchdown passes in one game for just the second time in his career.

"They were mixing it up," Cutler said. "They were sitting on our stuff -- 8, 10, 12 yards -- they were kind of sitting out there. They were showing shell, matching up underneath. They had a good game plan."

With reports circulating all week of Marshall's right ankle injury and Jeffery's strained left hamstring, not to mention all the drama in pregame warmups regarding whether they'd play, San Francisco's defensive backs knew Chicago's receivers wouldn't just run right by them to haul in deep balls from Cutler. So they sat on routes, ready to jump short throws for potential interceptions.

"They were smart about how they played us," Marshall said. "We knew that if we did end up throwing it deep, it would just be a jump ball."

San Francisco corners Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver limited Marshall and Jeffery to a combined one catch for 4 yards on three targets in the opening quarter. By the end of the first half, the duo had caught a combined three balls on nine total targets for 30 yards and Marshall's first touchdown.

"They did a good job game planning us defensively," Bears coach Marc Trestman admitted.

But Marshall one-handed a 17-yard touchdown pass over rookie free safety Jimmie Ward with just 18 seconds left in the first half. That scoring strike ignited the offense, Trestman said. That drive, which spanned 80 yards, allowed Cutler to work his chemistry in the red zone with Marshall, who in turn was able to outmuscle safety Jimmy Ward.

Niners safety Eric Reid admitted the size of Chicago's receivers gave his team problems, adding that "Cutler made some good throws in the red zone, [and] they made some good catches."

Jeffery's final numbers were modest -- three catches for 47 yards -- but his 29-yard grab over Culliver set up Marshall's final touchdown. Marshall pointed out he finished the game with just 48 yards receiving and that his last two TDs came from 5 and 3 yards out in the fourth quarter. He added that "it's not like me and Alshon got any better" in terms of their physical condition.

Marshall declined to discuss whether Cutler adjusted throws to target his back shoulder, which would allow him to use his physicality. But the receiver admitted San Francisco "knew" he and Jeffery weren't at full speed, "and they were smart to play us like that. You've got to give them credit."

"I was really frustrated," Marshall said. "I tried to stay positive and it worked. We just stayed in it and believed if we could get in the end zone just once, we'd be able to build off that."

That's precisely what transpired Sunday.

Sources: Hayden, Fales, Fiammetta released

September, 13, 2014
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CHICAGO -- A rash of injuries on the offensive line and at wide receiver prompted the Chicago Bears to make a handful of roster moves in advance of Sunday night’s road game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Sources confirmed the Bears waived quarterback David Fales and released veteran cornerback Kelvin Hayden and veteran fullback Tony Fiammetta.

The Bears announced following Friday’s practice that Fales (shoulder) and Fiammetta (hamstring) had been officially ruled out for Week 2.

Hayden was a healthy inactive in Chicago's 23-20 overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills in the season opener.

The expectation is the Bears will look to fill some of the open roster spots off the practice squad. With Brandon Marshall (ankle) and Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) questionable, and Josh Morgan (groin) doubtful, the Bears could choose to promote one, or more, of their current practice squad wide receivers: Josh Bellamy, Greg Herd, Chris Williams and Rashad Ross. Practice squad center/guard Taylor Boggs is a candidate to help with depth on the offensive line after starters Roberto Garza (high-ankle sprain) and Matt Slauson (high-ankle sprain) were both declared out for the 49ers game.

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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears reeled off more than 400 yards of offense and converted 42 percent on third down, yet they came up short in overtime 23-20 against the Buffalo Bills, in part because Jay Cutler continues to be Jay Cutler.

The Bears entered the game Sunday with an offense expected to be one of the league’s best, due to its performance in 2013, yet finished the day stymied -- not only by the Bills but also by themselves -- in front of the home crowd at Soldier Field. With the score tied at 17 and 8:01 remaining, Cutler tossed his second interception while attempting to make a dangerous throw back left against his body to Martellus Bennett while on the move running right to elude the rush.

"I was just trying to get it inside to Marty," Cutler said. "Third-and-1 there. I should have just thrown it away."

Instead, the quarterback played a role in throwing away the entire game with the interception. Signed to a seven-year contract worth $126 million in January after a promising 2013 campaign, Cutler continues to make puzzling decisions in games. His inconsistency leads to doubt about whether he'll ever shed the label of enigma by making smart moves with the ball while limiting turnovers in crucial situations.

Yet Bears coach Marc Trestman defended the quarterback Sunday when asked whether Cutler, now in his sixth season with Bears, should now be past making such damaging decisions in critical situations.

"To be able to make those kinds of statements after being out there in the heat, those are tough," Trestman said. "There's a lot of reasons these plays come up, and I think I'm gonna leave it at that."

Cutler's second interception was picked off by Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams. The Bills turned that into a Dan Carpenter field goal to go ahead 20-17.

“We rolled up a lot of yards,” Cutler said. “Turnovers hurt us. Penalties hurt us. We just kept stubbing our toe on certain things throughout the game.”

By doing so, the unit basically slammed the embattled defense’s head against a wall. Of Buffalo’s 23 points on the afternoon, 13 came as the result of Bears turnovers. The Bills needed to move the ball a grand total of 58 yards after the turnovers to put those points on the board.

Chicago’s defense definitely deserves criticism for surrendering Fred Jackson’s 38-yard run in overtime that set up Carpenter’s game-winning field goal. But prior to OT, the Bills feasted on two turnovers in Chicago territory. The final one, Williams’ pick, occurred on the Buffalo 34. A horse-collar tackle tacked onto the end of the return gave Buffalo possession at its own 48 with 7:52 left in regulation.

“Going into games like this, you can talk about a lot of different things,” Trestman said. “But when you have drives and you turn the ball over three times and you wind up being minus-2 in the plus-minus department, you get all the answers you need.”

That naturally leads to continued questions regarding Cutler, whose two picks led to 10 Bills points.

“You guys are going to be as negative as possible,” Cutler said postgame. “We understand that. We made mistakes today.”

Brandon Marshall contributed with a fumble recovered by Preston Brown in the second quarter. That turnover led to points, too.

Cutler’s first pick came on an errant throw to Bennett. But the tight end took responsibility for not looking for the ball sooner, though it was actually thrown behind him.

Of Cutler's second interception, “I don’t know what happened on that s---,” Bennett said. “The fat guy got a pick.”

Still, this one came down to turnovers with Cutler leading the way.

"I would rather save that for tomorrow," Tresman said of Cutler's interceptions. "We all saw them out there. I think the tape will show there were times he tried to make a couple things happen, and that's part of what makes him special. I know we're all disappointed from an offensive standpoint with the three turnovers and two interceptions."

Rapid Reaction: Chicago Bears

September, 7, 2014
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CHICAGO -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 23-20 overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field:

What it means: One loss typically isn’t cause for concern. But when you start the season playing four out of five on the road with the division-rival Green Bay Packers sandwiched in the middle, it’s easy to see how the Bears put themselves in a hole that will be difficult to climb out of considering next week’s matchup is on the road against the San Francisco 49ers.

Stock watch: Tight end Martellus Bennett caught eight passes for 70 yards and a touchdown and bailed Jay Cutler out of a couple of sticky situations when the quarterback was under duress. In Bennett, Cutler has a sure-handed 6-foot-6 security blanket the quarterback can find on crossing routes when under pressure.

Drive killers: Chicago gave up 10 points due to turnovers on back-to-back possessions to help the Bills seize a 17-7 lead at intermission. First, Brandon Marshall fumbled after a 14-yard reception. Leodis McKelvin stripped it loose and Preston Brown recovered, romping 30 yards to the Chicago 46. The turnover destroyed a promising Bears drive that started at the 14 and allowed the Bills to go up 10-7 on Dan Carpenter's 50-yard field goal with 8:07 left before intermission.

Chicago turned it over again the very next possession, with Cutler throwing an interception to Corey Graham on a pass intended for Bennett. Graham returned the pick 41 yards to the Chicago 17, and an Alshon Jeffery hands-to-the-face penalty tacked on an additional 10 yards. Buffalo scored on the next play on a C.J. Spiller 7-yard reception from EJ Manuel.

Game ball: Marshall caught a team-high eight passes for 71 yards and a touchdown and showed plenty of grit and toughness doing it. Marshall suffered what appeared to be an ankle injury on the final play of the third quarter making a 7-yard reception. As the quarter changed, he left the field to have trainers tape up the injured ankle. Marshall re-entered the game and limped off again after failing to haul in a third-down pass from Cutler. He returned to the sideline to undergo another tape job from the athletic trainers before coming back and finishing the game.

Three other starters in center Roberto Garza, left guard Matt Slauson and Jeffery also left due to injuries. Marshall was the only one to return.

What’s next: The Bears head back to Halas Hall on Monday to evaluate Sunday’s performance before taking Tuesday off. The club begins preparation Wednesday for next Sunday's matchup against the 49ers.
CLEVELAND -- Here are five things we learned in the first half of the Chicago Bears’ preseason finale versus the Browns.

1. 53-man roster mostly set before game: The Bears offered up a fairly complete picture of the final roster when they decided to sit numerous reserve players like: Josh Morgan, Ka’Deem Carey, Brock Vereen and Michael Spurlock. Unless the Bears find better alternatives over the weekend; all four appear to be in decent shape as the final cut date looms on Saturday. However, the decision to rest Carey and Vereen is somewhat curious. Outside of their draft status as fourth-round picks, neither did much to stand out over the summer. And no, Shea McClellin was never going to be cut. The Bears have not abandoned hope of salvaging the career of the former first-round draft choice.

2. David Fales knows the offense: Fales lacks ideal arm strength, but he does come across as a smart quarterback who understands where the ball is supposed to go. He did a decent job under intense pressure, and showed serious courage by throwing the ball deep on several occasions. The Bears are probably better off keeping only two quarterbacks on the active roster, but Fales showed enough smarts in the preseason to warrant a spot on the practice squad, if he clears waivers as expected.

3. Santonio Holmes can help Bears: Holmes proved he still has some juice left when he broke a tackle to score a 32-yard touchdown, followed by a 30-yard punt return. Granted, Holmes accomplished this against Cleveland backups, but he made the most of the opportunities presented to him. Holmes has too much experience to let walk away. Josh Bellamy had himself a solid first half with two catches for 43 yards in the opening quarter, but Holmes seems a smart choice to be the No. 4 wideout behind Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Morgan, with Spurlock also in the mix. We’ll see how/if Marquess Wilson’s injury complicates the situation when it boils down to determining the 53.

4. FirstEnergy video screens a nice touch: The Browns installed two giant video screens in the upper decks behind each end zone, a move that greatly enhances the in-stadium experience in Cleveland. The Bears need to strongly consider adding similar technology at Soldier Field, because the current video setup is below average for a stadium built in the last 11 years. The fans would love it. And it opens up tons of marketing and sales opportunities for the club. That’s a win-win for everybody involved.

5. Browns took it seriously: Cleveland needed starting quarterback Brian Hoyer to orchestrate a touchdown drive. The Browns are desperate for good vibes heading into Week 1. We all know Cleveland will probably stink again, but this is a franchise that is trying to sell hope to its tortured fan base. They call this place the “Factory of Sadness” for a reason. But the home fans actually seemed upbeat after the first 30 minutes, especially when Johnny Manziel fired a touchdown pass. Mission accomplished for the Browns.
Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall's ranking improved from No. 23 in 2013 to No. 15 in this year’s edition of our #NFLRank project, in which ESPN ranks the Top 100 players around the league on both sides of the ball.

The latest rankings grouped players between Nos. 20 through 11.

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Marshall ranked one spot behind Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch and one slot ahead of New England’s Rob Gronkowski. But No. 15 seems a tad low considering Marshall’s 10 touchdown catches thrown in the end zone tied with Dez Bryant (No. 13) for the most in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Alshon Jeffery was one of 23 players on offense to make his debut in the 2014 #NFLRank project, checking in at No. 31.

Coming off arthroscopic hip surgery in 2013, Marshall spent the 2013 offseason rehabbing instead of training, and missed time during training camp. In fact, Marshall probably didn’t hit his stride in 2013 until about halfway through the season.

Yet Marshall caught a career-high 12 TD receptions last season, finishing with 100 catches for the fifth time in his career for 1,295 yards. Marshall’s fifth 100-catch season ties Andre Johnson and Wes Welker for the most in NFL history.

Marshall was targeted 23 times in the end zone last season, which ties for A.J. Green for the most in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Serving as a mentor to Jeffery, Marshall acknowledges he grew off the field, too, in 2013, saying last season was the first in his career in which he was truly unselfish. Marshall also claims that 2014 will be his Michael Jackson “Thriller” year.

“Last year I grew spiritually, and that was the first time I was able to step outside myself on this spiritual journey and be able to say, "You know what, I don’t know what’s gonna happen. But I’m gonna serve Alshon Jeffery. I’m gonna serve Martellus Bennett." Because I know there’s something bigger. I’m a part of something greater. I can’t wait to see what it is,” Marshall said.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jay Cutler's interactions with teammates and the media always seem to creep into the narrative about the quarterback, and on Tuesday Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said "we've absolutely noticed a difference in Jay."

Cutler admits he's changed, too.

Cutler
"It might be true. Anytime you are in an offense and have the same group of guys around you, it's going to be more comfortable. It is for me anyway," Cutler said. "I like the group of guys we have in the locker room, understand what we are doing offensively. And it's early. It's still preseason with you guys."

Described as petulant to the media in the past with televised on-field blowups with teammates and coaches as evidence that he's been difficult to get along with, Cutler hasn't displayed such qualities so far. But to Cutler's credit, he didn't in 2013 either.

Going into 2014, Kromer believes Cutler is taking on more of a leadership role. He's moved on to a new staff led by an offensive-minded head coach in Marc Trestman. He's finally protected well, and not taking unnecessary punishment every time he drops back to pass. He's surrounded by a bevy of weapons on offense, and playing in an offensive system he believes in strongly on a new seven-year contract.

"I think everyone in the building has noticed a difference in Jay," Kromer said. "None of us knew Jay very well before getting here last year, and we worked through the year and that first year is always hard on everybody. But what I see in Jay Cutler right now is a guy that's the leading the group; a guy that is approachable, and is working to make everybody better because he realizes it's important that everybody is on the same page with him."

New receiver Santonio Holmes admitted as much Monday, saying the quarterback has "taken me under his wing, talked to me, and kept me close." The expectation is Cutler's approach will translate into victories this season. During training camp, Brandon Marshall called Cutler "a totally different person," adding that "I think he has great balance in is life now."

"He's talked with receivers. He's talked with linemen. He's working with running backs constantly," Kromer said. "That's a maturity on his part of knowing the offense, knowing what we want as coaches and feeling good about being the leader that he is. It's been a very good start of the year that way."

Will it continue? Well, it did in 2013 despite the Bears finishing 8-8 in a season in which Cutler was forced to miss time due to injuries on two occasions.

Cutler seems to now totally understand the value of making everyone else around him better, which is part of the reason that within an hour of Holmes signing his contract on Saturday, the two were on the field together working on plays to develop a rapport as quickly as possible. Cutler displayed similar qualities in 2013, too.

"If Santonio Holmes is going to play, Jay's going to rely on him," Kromer said. "Jay knows he has to be on the same page with him. So the faster he can get to know him, the better off he's going to be and that's Jay's goal."

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