Marshall on the Rebound

Marshall (Jonathan Daniel - Getty Images)

In a dominant first season in Chicago, Brandon Marshall has been effective using a certain basketball technique to make plays on the football field. The Packers, who held Marshall to two catches in Week 2, will stick to their game plan and try to maintain a level head to combat it.

Green Bay Packers' defensive backs might want to review some instructional basketball videos this week as they prepare for Brandon Marshall.

In recent weeks especially, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound wide receiver has used his size advantage to make key plays in the Bears' passing game which, coincidentally, has been nothing but him all season.

With an NFL-leading 101 catches through 13 games, Marshall is a whopping 78 catches ahead of the next closest Bears receiver (running back Matt Forte is second on the team with 36 catches). He has been targeted 157 times, second most in the league, according to STATS.

"Yeah, (Jay Cutler's) going to go to him," said safety M.D. Jennings. "That's his go-to guy. They've got history together so he feels comfortable throwing it to him."

That might be an understatement. Over the last three games, Marshall has caught 12, 10, and 10 passes and has been targeted on 50-of-74 pass attempts.

Perhaps the most unstoppable part of Marshall's game lately has been the use of a "box out" to make a catch, similar to the proper technique a basketball player uses to get ready for a rebound. He used such positioning on three occasions against the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 25 and on a Hail Mary-like attempt against the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 11, when he came down with a 56-yard catch that set up a field goal to send the game to overtime.

Like when the teams met in Week 2, keeping Marshall off the glass, so to speak, will fall on ace cornerback Tramon Williams.

"Tramon has a good vertical," cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said on Friday. "If he's boxing out when the ball goes up, both guys have to go up and go get it. He's a 6-4, 230-pound man that uses his size to his advantage, which is smart. We have to use our quickness and our ability to get off the ground and time the ball in the air and use our skill-set to our advantage."

For all of his physical play, Marshall has been called for just one offensive pass interference this season. Packers defensive backs, on the other hand, have been called for five pass interference calls but none since Week 6 at Houston.

"You aren't hardly ever going to see pass interference called on the offense," said Jennings after being asked if Marshall's box out should be considered pass interference. "So, we can't get caught up in what the refs call. We've just got to go out there and play football.

"He's big and physical. He can make plays. You've got to know where he's at at all times. We've just got to go out there and execute the game plan."

Jennings and fellow safety Morgan Burnett could be key components in helping Williams limit Marshall this Sunday at Soldier Field. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers will likely use safety help over the top, like he did against the Detroit Lions' Calvin Johnson twice over the past month. In last Sunday's meeting with the Lions, on a fourth-and-inches play from the 3-yard line in which quarterback Matthew Stafford scored on a bootleg, the Packers double-teamed Johnson, the right outside receiver in the formation, at the line of scrimmage with Jennings and Williams.

The Packers, in past seasons, have run similar red-zone plays with their offense to tight end Jermichael Finley to take advantage of his size (6-5, 247). Finley said Wednesday that discussions with referees have helped him avoid offensive pass interference penalties in such situations.

"Hooking ‘em in the back - they'll usually call offensive pass interference for that," he said while putting his arms around his back. "So, you don't want to hook ‘em when you're boxing out."

Finley equates Marshall's technique to just playing one-on-one basketball. Finley has a basketball background (he was offered a basketball scholarship to Arizona) like Marshall, who played at Lake Howell High School in Florida.

"I'm not the fastest guy. I don't jump the highest," said Marshall after the Nov. 25 Vikings game. "So one of the things my father taught me was how to use my body, be crafty. I don't run the best routes, but I'm really confident, and I put myself in the position where I can be quarterback-friendly."

Marshall's skills have made Jay Cutler look good on more than one occasion - but not on Sept. 13, the first meeting this season between the Packers and the Bears. A swarming pass rush by the Packers that night got Cutler off his game, mentally and physically. He was sacked seven times and intercepted four times. Marshall caught just two passes for 24 yards in five targets.

Marshall remembers that night and on Wednesday was voicing his dislike for the Packers through a press conference lined with hyperbole. Jennings, like many of his teammates, will choose to let his actions do the talking.

"We're not going to get into all the trash talking and all that," he said. "All we got to do is execute the game plan."

Marshall vs. the Packers

(3 career games)

Sept. 13, 2012 with the Bears - 2 catches (in five targets) for 24 yards, 0 TD's

Oct. 17, 2010 with the Dolphins - 10 catches (in 17 targets) for 127 yards, 0 TD's

Oct. 29, 2007 with the Broncos - 3 catches for 74 yards, 0 TD's


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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com

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