Early in the second quarter of last week's contest against the Houston Texans, Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall lined up wide right. Marshall got one-on-one coverage and streaked down the field. Quarterback Jay Cutler threw a perfect pass over the defender, hitting Marshall in stride in the end zone. Yet Marshall let the ball bounce off his hands and fall incomplete.
In a defensive battle like Sunday night's game, one offensive mistake was the difference between winning and losing. Scoring opportunities were few and far between, with only one total touchdown scored all night, so Marshall's drop was huge. It cost Chicago seven points, the exact amount by which they lost the game.
"I didn't make that play in the end zone," Marshall said after the game. "I let the team down. I take full responsibility for sputtering a little bit the first half. I thought we moved the ball really well and had an opportunity of really putting our team in position to be successful on offense. We let the team down with some fumbles early and a dropped ball by myself in the end zone and that won't happen again."
Yet when you look at Marshall's history, it's obvious that it will happen again.
According to Pro Football Focus, no receiver in the league dropped more passes than Marshall from 2009-2011. That number is relative to his number of targets, as no NFL receiver was targeted more during those three seasons. Yet Marshall's drop rate – catchable passes divided by the number of drops – was hardly better. His drop rate in that timeframe was third worst in the league.
With Marshall, you get an unbelievably talented wideout who has the physical skills to be one of the best pass catchers in the game. His production for Chicago this year has been everything the team expected and more. Through nine games, he's on pace to easily break franchise single-season records in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
Looking at the pure numbers, trading two third-round picks to Miami for Marshall seems like a downright steal.
Yet no one is perfect and that goes for Marshall as well. He has dropped two touchdowns this season, one last week and one in Week 2 against the Green Bay Packers. The Bears lost both of those contests. That is not a coincidence.
Both of those games were hard-fought, defensive battles where one big play on offense was the deciding factor. Marshall's drops, in essence, cost the Bears an opportunity at victories in those matchups.
He's arguably the greatest receiver ever to put on a Bears uniform, and he'll continue to carry Chicago's passing attack, but Marshall is going to break your heart from time to time.
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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.