Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall was shut down against the Green Bay Packers in Week 2 this season. At Lambeau Field, Marshall caught just two passes for 24 yards. No coincidentally, that was the only contest the Bears lost this year.
Offensive coordinator Mike Tice, in his first year running an offense, is learning on the fly. He obviously realized that if opposing defenses shut down Marshall, the offense will sputter. In that Packers contest, the Bears managed just 168 total net yards on offense. In today's NFL, that is a recipe for a loss.
Tice learned from his mistake. Since then, he's been moving Marshall all over the field before the snap. Marshall has been lined up out wide on both sides of the field and in the slot, has been motioning constantly and often starts the play in a two- or three-man bunch formation.
By moving Marshall around and lining him up in different locations, opposing defenses haven't been able to bracket him, which has opened up the offense.
WR Brandon Marshall
"It makes it hard for them to pinpoint me," Marshall said today. "So when you motion and you get thrown in the slot or motion to the slot or motion across formation, it definitely makes them hard. When you sit in one spot, they know where you're at. It's easy for them to game plan you."
In the three games following that Packers contest, Marshall has caught 24 passes for 353 yards and two touchdowns.
"Coach Tice is doing an amazing job," said Marshall. "I just told him last week, he's doing a great job of just making it hard on the defensive guys and the coaches included."
Playing different roles in the offense is nothing new to Marshall.
"In Miami, coach [Brian] Daboll and coach [Tony] Sparano, they did a great job too trying to get me in position," he said. "I did a lot, played Z. Played X. So the past two years I've had a lot of experience moving around. I think I'm a pretty smart player, so it's easy for me to transition into something different. We worked a lot at it this offseason. It's not a unique situation. I think if you look across the board, the Larry Fitzgeralds, the Calvin Johnsons, the A J Greens, everyone does it. You have to do it to try and get the guys the ball."
The result of relocating Marshall to different spots on the offensive line has been tremendous. His 496 total receiving yards is the third most in franchise history through the team's first five games. He has three 100-yard receiving games this season, the first time a Bears wideout has done so since Muhsin Muhammad in 2006. His 100-yard games the past two weeks (138 vs. Dallas, 144 vs. Jacksonville) is the first time a Chicago receiver has had back-to-back 100-yard games since Marcus Robinson in 1999.
"I'm in a good spot here," Marshall said. "I know teams are going to key on guys like myself and Matt [Forte]. But we just have to continue to pound the pavement and try to make plays for the guys around us."
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.