In the Wake of the News
12:50 AM CDT, October 11, 2013
After each of his two touchdown receptions Thursday night at Soldier Field against the Giants, an exultant Brandon Marshall dropped to his knees in the end zone, extended his arms and looked toward the sky.
Under those circumstances, Bears coach Marc Trestman will welcome his No. 1 wide receiver being what he calls a palms-up guy.
The Bears gave Marshall no reason to complain this week about wanting the ball more by targeting him early and often against an overwhelmed Giants defense that, in the end, simply was more generous than that of the Bears.
And that is saying something.
History will record Thursday's final score as Bears 27, Giants 21. But in a game that will be remembered for both teams' horrendous defense, it was more a case of Bad beating Worse by six points. The Bears escaped a winless opponent and Giants quarterback Eli Manning got out of town before leaving a forwarding address for thank-you gifts.
"We got their best punch,'' Jay Cutler said.
The Bears got a little lucky too.
The victory stopped a two-game losing streak but hardly won over skeptics wondering if the 4-2 leaders of the NFC North truly are a playoff team. It was more entertaining than impressive, thanks to a passing game dominated by a man who came dressed for success. Even without the lime-green shoes he wore to promote mental health awareness week, Marshall would have stood out on a night the yards came easily for the Bears.
"It was amazing,'' Marshall said. "Sometimes you come off as a guy who's trying to build yourself up and I hope people believe I'm using it as a platform to do well.''
Marshall responded to the pressure he put on himself as well as he possibly could, with actions that backed up words he used publicly to demand the ball. By the time Marshall was done shredding the Giants for nine catches for 87 yards and two scores, his drop on Trestman's ill-advised fourth-down call in the first quarter was a memory.
A quick aside: Think the field goal Trestman recklessly passed up on the first series on fourth-and-2 would have provided some insurance in the final, frenetic minutes?
Anyway, Cutler did whatever he wanted against the worst team in the NFC, turning a prime-time game on NFL Network into a 7-on-7 training-camp session in Bourbonnais. Cutler posted a 106.5 passer rating with a commanding performance, using all his weapons wisely.
When Marshall wasn't getting open, tight end Martellus Bennett was. Matt Forte got more involved in the passing game too. Even fullback Tony Fiametta turned a short pass into a 30-yard gain. Alshon Jeffery, Sunday's record-setter, caught only one pass, but no news conferences are scheduled to address it.
Everything clicked offensively but the running game. But before anybody says anything that offends touchy offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, the Bears didn't need the run given how the Giants defense gave away passing yardage in chunks.
To the chagrin of defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, so did the Bears.
Injured starters Charles Tillman and Stephen Paea sat out, but the problems appear more endemic than isolated. The Bears can't blame attrition for all the ineptness. Perhaps they can get away with tackling poorly and getting steamrolled by running backs against an awful team inventing ways to lose. But as the competition stiffens, the defense cannot play so soft.
"We're not even close to where we need to be,'' Lance Briggs said correctly.
Somehow, the Bears must discover how to stop the run with young, unproven defensive tackles standing in their first NFL huddles. They have to develop a consistent pass rush that again disappeared. They have to locate Julius Peppers, wherever he is.
The defense keeps heading in the wrong direction. Little mistakes keep leading to big issues, such as when nickel back Isaiah Frey missed a tackle on tight end Bear Pascoe on third down that would have forced a punt. Four plays later, Manning hit Rueben Randle for a 37-yard touchdown.
Luckily for the Bears, Manning aided them more than the Giants, throwing two interceptions in the first two series. It began to look like Marshall should ask Trestman if he could play cornerback to ensure he got enough passes thrown his way. Jennings returned Manning's second mistake 48 yards for a touchdown that ultimately gave the Bears the lead they clung to late.
Most memorably, Manning helped Chicago avoid a frantic Friday in the city by overthrowing tight end Brandon Myers with 1 minute, 54 seconds left on the potential game-winning drive. The ball went through Myers' fingers into Jennings' opportunistic hands to avert disaster. Relieved teammates mobbed Jennings as he ran to the Bears sideline.
It created a satisfying feeling at the end of an unsatisfying victory.
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