Thursday, October 31, 2013
The plan for covering Brandon Marshall
By Rob Demovsky
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Apparently, Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall has a selective memory when it comes to the Green Bay Packers.
Asked on Thursday about the success the Packers had defending him, Marshall said: "Well, I don't know where you get that from."
He seemed to have little recollection of the two games he played against the Packers last year.
In a Week 2 loss at Lambeau Field, he caught just two passes for 24 yards and no touchdowns.
Three months later in a loss at Soldier Field, he caught six passes for 56 yards and one touchdown.
"You go back to the Denver days when [former Packers cornerback] Al Harris was there, I had a good game, made some plays even though it as a tough matchup, a lot of give and take," Marshall said during a conference call with reporters at Lambeau Field. "When I was in Miami, I think I had 100-something yards, and we won the game. I think that was y'all's Super Bowl year, so I don't know where you get that from that it's been tough for me."
Marshall had that part of it right. In 2007, he caught three passes for 74 yards for the Broncos in a loss to the Packers. In 2010, he had a monster game with 10 catches for 127 yards for the Dolphins in a win at Lambeau Field.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Marshall is a tough matchup for anyone, but Packers cornerback Tramon Williams -- with some help -- nearly shut him out in the first meeting last season.
"Tramon, he was pretty much following me a little bit," Marshall said, "with help over the top."
That's the norm for Marshall, who often is double covered.
"Yeah, it sucks," he said.
"He's one of those guys, he's big and he does everything well," Williams said. "He runs pretty good routes. He comes back to the ball, comes out of his breaks well and he's good after the catch and strong. so he's a guy who presents a lot of challenges. Your best odds are to try to keep him from catching the ball because once he does catch the ball, he's really good with it."
Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers has used his cornerbacks differently this season. He began by leaving Williams on one side and Sam Shields on the other rather than matching them up. In recent weeks, he has moved Williams inside in the nickel (three cornerbacks) package, leaving Shields and Davon House on the outside.
Since giving up 13 catches for 208 yards to San Francisco 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin in the season opener, the Packers have fared much better against No. 1 receivers. Since, if anyone draws the assignment to match the other team's top receiver, it has been Shields. Halfway through the Week 3 game at Cincinnati, Shields asked to cover Bengals Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green and although he gave up a touchdown, Shields held Green relatively in check with four catches for 46 yards.
"After the first game getting torched by Anquan, no other number one has put up huge numbers, so you have to look at that and respect what they do on defense," Marshall said. "They're getting better."
In the game at Chicago last December, Shields covered receiver Alshon Jeffery for most of the game. Shields frustrated Jeffery to the point where he was called for three offensive pass interference penalties.
Now, it may be up to Shields to shadow Marshall in Monday night's game at Lambeau Field. In some ways, it may make up for the fact that Shields did not get to cover Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson in the Oct. 6 game. Shields was looking forward to testing himself against Johnson, who was inactive because of a knee injury.
"We got another game coming this Thanksgiving," Shields said, referring to the rematch with the Lions.
But for now, his sights are set on Marshall, should he draw that assignment.
"This is a big challenge, and I'm up for all challenges," Shields said. "Whatever decision the coaches make, I'm ready and willing to go forward."
Since Boldin and the 49ers lit up the Packers in the opener, Green Bay's pass defense has made a steady recovery. Ranked 30th out of 32 teams in the league in passing yards allowed per game after two weeks, the Packers have climbed to 21st.
"We're not letting anyone get the big, explosive plays," Shields said.