By Dan Wiederer, Chicago Tribune reporter
1:00 AM CDT, October 11, 2013
Brandon Marshall really wanted to see the football more.
It came his way plenty Thursday night.
Brandon Marshall desperately needed a Bears victory.
He helped provide it.
With a pair of glowing green cleats and two crowd-pleasing touchdown catches, Marshall lit the wick for Week 6 in the NFL, catalyzing a 27-21 defeat of the Giants at Soldier Field.
After several days of Marshall mood checks and nonstop debate around Chicago about the mercurial receiver's true intentions and vacillating feelings, Thursday became a showcase of Marshall's elite skills.
His athleticism was obvious on his first catch, a leaping 20-yard grab over Antrel Rolle.
His first touchdown was an all-too-easy 10-yarder, Marshall gliding past Rolle and finding plenty of room in the middle of the end zone.
"You don't get those layups like that very often," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "That was one of the easier ones he'll have all year."
Added Marshall: "Versus that coverage, that's a play we like."
Later in the first half, Marshall showed strength and awareness, separating from cornerback Terrell Thomas to snatch a 3-yard, back-shoulder touchdown toss from Jay Cutler near the right sideline.
The receivers' final numbers: nine catches, 87 yards, two scores.
That, along with being targeted a team-high 11 times, ought to be enough to quell his frustrations for a while. It should help lift the spirits of an entire locker room, even if the victory featured far more survival than dominance against an obviously inferior opponent.
After dispiriting losses to the Lions and Saints, the Bears knew they had to be sharp against a Giants squad that came to town winless and reeling. "Must-win" was too strong a label. But "shouldn't lose" had to be in the conversation.
Lance Briggs was asked how much different the emotions in Chicago might have been if the Bears had let a double-digit halftime lead evaporate instead of pulling out a victory, ugly as it sometimes was.
"I have a smile on my face," Briggs said. "That's the big difference."
The Bears have 10 days before they meet the Redskins in Washington to soak in the relief of a performance that included 372 yards of offense and three key takeaways.
Jay Cutler's night (24-for-36, 262 yards) was equally encouraging, particularly because it was sack- and turnover-free.
The Bears got back on the winning track in large part because of Marshall's productivity. But they certainly had help from a Giants squad that's creating its own problems.
The night's first score came courtesy of a 48-yard Tim Jennings interception return, a play the cornerback made when Giants quarterback Eli Manning and receiver Rueben Randle had a clear disconnect.
With a blitz called and three-deep coverage behind him, Jennings never took his eyes off Manning and, with Randle streaking up the field, was all but assured of a score the instant the ball left Manning's hand.
"If you're going to sit there and double move me, I believe in our rush, I believe in our blitz package," Jennings said. "I just kind of played it slow and kept my eye on the quarterback."
Jennings' second interception — with 1 minute, 54 seconds left — sealed the victory, a pick that fell into his arms when Manning fired too high for tight end Brandon Myers.
"Finally," linebacker James Anderson said, "we can exhale. Like 'Oh, my God. Let's go home.'"
Still, with the positive vibes renewed, the Bears won't mistake their performance for a masterpiece.
With cornerback Charles Tillman and defensive tackle Stephen Paea sitting out with injuries, a reshuffled defense had significant issues. Brandon Jacobs pounded his way to 106 yards and two touchdowns.
"He's a load," Briggs said.
Randle's 37-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter was the result of busted coverage between Jennings and Major Wright. And both defensive backs also missed tackles near the 5-yard line on the play.
In addition, starting middle linebacker D.J. Williams left in the third quarter with a chest injury, the latest setback for a unit that can't afford to lose another starter.
The Bears' inability to bury the Giants cannot be overlooked either.
"It wasn't pretty out there," Jennings said. "Even though we got off to the fast start, we didn't finish strong enough."
A 4-2 record provides comfort. Marshall's big night provides temporary relief. The need for dramatic improvement, however, remains obvious.
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