- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler pulled aside receiver Brandon Marshall for a frank discussion during the week of preparation leading into Monday night’s 34-18 dismantling of the Dallas Cowboys.
Ultimately, Cutler issued a challenge, according to Marshall.
“I just wanted him to play within the system and play a full game, and not worry about the plays being called, not to worry about the balls coming to him or where they’re going,” Cutler said. “Just play Bears football. Play like you did in Denver with us, let it come to him.”
Marshall listened, apparently, resulting in he and the quarterback making seven connections for 138 yards and a touchdown as Cutler ripped the Cowboys for 275 yards total and a passer rating of 140.1. Marshall described preparation for the Cowboys as “a tidal wave building all week.”
“We have great chemistry on and off the field. We’re like brothers; both passionate about the game. Tonight (Cutler) had a little rhythm,” Marshall said. “He pushed us. He challenged us all throughout the week and I think it transferred over tonight.”
Early on, it didn’t appear that would be the case, according to Cutler. As the Bears looked to fall into a rhythm during a first half in which Cutler completed 7 of 12 for 56 yards with only two passes going to Marshall for 31 yards, the quarterback admitted the receiver “got a little chippy there in the first half.”
Yet in the second half, Marshall hauled in five more balls for 107 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that ended a six-play drive spanning 67 yards.
“(I) settled him down and when his number was dialed, he made plays for us,” Cutler said. “That’s what he’s got to do. That’s his style of football.”
Cutler, offensive coordinator Mike Tice and the skill-position players discussed all week the importance of getting into a rhythm against Dallas, which entered Monday’s game ranked No. 1 in total defense.
The key for Marshall, Cutler said, was playing within the team’s system. Marshall didn’t always do that in the team’s 23-6 victory over the St. Louis Rams, in which he was rarely double-teamed, as he caught five passes for five passes for 71 yards.
Having matched up against Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr on multiple occasions as a Denver Bronco and Miami Dolphin, Marshall said after Monday’s game that the Cowboys gave Carr “a little freedom to play one-on-one, but at the same time they played a little quarters, a little (Cover) two.”
Once the Bears identified weaknesses, they attacked.
“When (Marshall) plays within the system, he’s hard to cover. He brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to our huddle out there,” Cutler said. “I thought tonight was a perfect example of him being patient and waiting for his balls. When he got a chance, he made them count.”
If teams continue to play Marshall without extra defenders, he’ll receive plenty more opportunities. Cutler said on Monday that when “we get one-on-one, he’s my guy” because the quarterback knows Marshall is “gonna protect me. He’s gonna get open. He’s gonna fight for the football.”
Marshall doesn’t seem to display it on the field, but Cutler admits that both he and his No. 1 target possess fiery demeanors, although the quarterback “think(s) I’m probably a little more of the level-headed one, believe it or not, on the field than Brandon.”
“There’s a lot of highs and lows. But when he’s playing well, he’s hard to stop,” Cutler said. “We’ve just got to keep him even-level, playing within the system, and try to get him the ball as much as possible. That’s my job.”
As Marshall became “chippy” as Cutler put it, the quarterback continued to “managed the huddle well,” according to the receiver.
“He was outstanding,” Marshall said. “He was fired up before the game. We just fed off him.”
Somehow, that played a role in a feast for the entire team.