Bears relentlessly targeted Robinson

The Bears were rewarded for targeting Josh Robinson again and again, gaining more than half their passing yards that way. Just look at the stats and see what the principal characters said.

Maybe those “Josh Robinson has turned it around” stories were premature. Or maybe Josh Robinson just gets turned around and knocked down against bigger receivers.

Whatever the case, after a generally solid first couple months in Mike Zimmer’s defense being implemented in Minnesota, Robinson stumbled hard against the oversized receivers he was asked to cover against the Chicago Bears.

The Bears saw a mismatch, planned to exploit it and did.

“We wanted to go at 21 (Robinson),” Chicago QB Jay Cutler said. “We knew he was a little bit smaller. 29 (Xavier Rhodes) has some length and speed. We wanted to put some balls up to our right side. We got a few opportunities to do it.”

More than a couple. More like a dozen … or more, actually. Time and again, the Bears dictated that Robinson, the Minnesota Vikings’ No. 3 cornerback who is on the field when offenses go to three-receiver sets, be placed in the game.

“I would have changed up some coverages,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “We did some and then they went to other places. I can’t make these guys taller.”

Robinson is 5-foot-10, 199 pounds. The Bears have a pair of receivers 6-foot-3 or taller. Brandon Marshall is 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds. Alshon Jeffery is 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds.

The mismatch was evident all game in the Vikings’ 21-13 loss, but no more obvious and deadly than in the fourth quarter when Marshall was split out wide and waving his arms wide to get Cutler’s attention. Marshall was matched up against Robinson one-one on third-and-goal from the 4-yard line.

Cutler apparently didn’t see Marshall’s signal but knew where he wanted to go with it. Right at Robinson.

“You have to. Down there, the field is so short, the height matters but you have to put it in the right place,” Cutler said. “(Marshall) does a great job of using his body.”

Marshall also had a 44-yard touchdown catch against Robinson, and Jeffery had a 27-yard touchdown against Robinson in coverage.

“We knew what they were going to do, and they came out and did it,” Robinson said. “I need to play better and that’s the biggest thing I can take from this game. You can’t be in position to make plays and not make them. If you’re winning on a corner, you’re going to keep going back at him.”

The Patriots did that and won again and again. Cutler completed 31 of 43 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns. Robinson was the oft-targeted victim.

Throwing at Robinson, Cutler was 11 for 15 for 178 yards and all three touchdowns, accounting for more than half of his passing yards at the expense of Robinson.

Zimmer might have wanted to change coverages, or be able to stretch Robinson into a 6-foot-4 cornerback, but Robinson had a different answer.

“It’s all about effort. Don’t give up,” Robinson said. “They’re a player just like you are so you just have to keep fighting and make the plays when you can, and that’s where I failed.”


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