Peterson will challenge Bears' Marshall

Chicago wide receiver Brandon Marshall will face one of his toughest challenges of the season this week against the Arizona Cardinals, squaring off against cornerback Patrick Peterson.

It's a must-win week for the Chicago Bears. At 8-6, having lost three straight and five of the last six, the Bears need a victory against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday or else their season is over.

That onus falls mainly on the offense, which has struggled mightily during the recent losing skid. Over the past six games, Chicago has averaged just 280 yards on offense, with just nine total touchdowns compared to 11 turnovers.

The ineptitude continued last week against the Green Bay Packers, with the Bears able to muster just 190 total yards on offense, their third lowest yardage output of the season.

"You're not going to fix every problem in one week so we've got to focus on ourselves and what we've got to do internally, offensively, to win one game and go from there," Jay Cutler said today.

In reality, there are issues at every single position on offense except for the club's No. 1 receiver, Brandon Marshall. It took him just 13 games to break the franchise's all-time single-season receptions record -- which stands at 107 and counting -- and he's just three yards shy of the single-season yardage mark of 1,400, set by Marcus Robinson in 1999, and three TDs shy of breaking the single-season touchdown reception mark of 13, set by Dick Gordon in 1970 and Ken Kavanaguh in 1947.

Currently, Marshall is first in the NFL in receptions (107), second in receiving yards (1,398) and touchdown catches (10). He also leads the league in third-down receptions (35) and yards (453), and is sixth in first downs (70). Of all non-kickers in the league, Marshall ranks eighth overall in points scored (60), while he's ninth overall in yards from scrimmage (1,398).


CB Patrick Peterson
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

At his current pace, Marshall will break every single receiving record in Chicago Bears annals. Unfortunately for the offense, that production isn't translating into wins.

"Winning is contagious," Marshall said today, "and unfortunately losing is too. It's all about a mindset. I look back on teams I've been on the last six years. I've never been to the playoffs. So I understand as someone who is sitting back and watching and observing, I understand what losing is and I understand what winning is. And this is a winning team. This is a winning organization. So that's what really frustrates me and other guys."

No other player on Chicago's roster has more than 41 receptions and 312 receiving yards, while Marshall has garnered the second most targets (165) in the NFL. In essence, the Bears' passing attack is a one-man show, which means if you shut down Marshall, you shut down Chicago's chance at scoring points.

The Cardinals will attempt to do just that by lining up one of the best young cornerbacks in the league, Patrick Peterson, across from Marshall.

"[He's] big, physical – I think similar to maybe some of Seattle's corners – a little bit more speed," said Cutler. "[He has] really good ball skills. He's going to be a challenge. Whether he's matched up with [Marshall] all game long, whether he travels with him, we'll see."

If Peterson does travel with Marshall and shadows him during Sunday's contest, it will be tough sledding for Chicago's best wideout if he's to pick up his eighth 100-yard receiving game of 2010.

Peterson ranks second in the league in interceptions (7), behind only Tim Jennings (8), including picks in the last four games in a row. His seven interceptions are more than any Cardinals player since Kwamie Lassiter (9) in 2001.

"The kid is talented," Marshall said. "I got a text message from my college coach that also coached at LSU when [Peterson] was there and he said, ‘This is the best athlete you're going to go against this year.' I've got my hands full this week. I know he'll follow me around a little bit. I heard some comments he made a week or two ago about how he's playing the best at the position. I agree with him. Watching film now, he really is backing it up."

Peterson has the size, strength and speed to match up one-on-one with Marshall. Yet, with no other receiver of any real concern, it's likely the Cardinals will bracket Marshall in the same way they did Detroit's Calvin Johnson last week -- a game in which they intercepted Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford three times, two of which were returned for scores.

"They played some interesting coverages to Calvin last week, kind of iced him like a punt return," said Cutler. "Whether they do that to Brandon, we're going to have to find out Sunday.

The Cardinals' secondary has been very opportunistic of late. The club's 14 interceptions since Week 9 are the most in the league in the second half of the season. As a team, Arizona leads the league in interceptions (22). Their 5.0 interception percentage is also tops in the NFL.

"You don't go into a game saying we're going to get a bunch of interceptions," Cardinals head coach Ken Wisenhunt said today. "You try to play the scheme of your defense and get an opportunity to make some plays on the ball. And that's what we've done."

Surely Arizona's scheme come Sunday afternoon will be to shadow Marshall with Peterson and provide safety help over the top. If that works in keeping Marshall at bay, expect Chicago's passing attack to again struggle moving the ball through the air.


Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.

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