LAKE FOREST – Brandon Marshall did everything he could Wednesday to catch the attention of the Green Bay Packers.
Personalize the Bears-Packers rivalry? Yep.
“I’m not going to use the word ‘hate,’ ” Marshall said. “But I really dislike the Green Bay Packers and their players.”
Challenge the Packers’ secondary? Yep.
“I’ve never been shut out in one-on-one coverage,” Marshall said. “Never in my life.”
Pile hype on top of hype for Sunday’s game? Yep.
“This is the biggest game of my career,” Marshall said.
It’s also the biggest game of the Bears’ season.
The Bears (8-5) need to beat the Packers (9-4) on Sunday to reassert themselves as playoff contenders and remain in contention for the NFC North title. They have lost four of five games to fall to sixth place in the conference, while Green Bay is one win away from clinching the division and earning at least one home game in the playoffs.
If anyone on the Bears is capable of outscoring the Packers, it should be Marshall.
Entering Week 15, Marshall leads the league with 101 receptions and trails only Detroit’s Calvin Johnson with 1,342 receiving yards. He has surpassed 100 receiving yards in seven of 13 games while catching double-digit passes in four games.
Yet the Packers frustrated Marshall with double- and triple-coverage during a 23-10 win against the Bears in Week 2 at Lambeau Field. Marshall caught only two passes, and cornerback Tramon Williams matched that figure with a pair of interceptions.
Marshall took exception to postgame comments in which Williams and safety Charles Woodson talked about shutting down the Bears’ top receiver. In Marshall’s opinion, no one on the Packers could brag about limiting him with double coverage.
“I take it as a slap in my face when guys talk about my lack of ability to do something against them,” Marshall said, “when they have help all over the place.”
At least one of the Packers’ top defenders will not be able to help against Marshall this weekend.
The Packers ruled out Woodson for Sunday’s game as he continues to recover from a broken collarbone that he sustained Oct. 21 against the St. Louis Rams. Woodson thought that he would be able to return against the Bears, but the Packers’ medical staff decided to play it safe and keep him off of the field for at least another week.
Although Woodson’s absence is good news for the Bears, it hardly will guarantee success in the passing game. The Bears are No. 28 in total offense with 314.8 yards per game and No. 27 in passing offense with 192.5 yards per game.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said he expected the Packers to focus on stopping Marshall once again.
“We missed some opportunities with Brandon last time – I think he’d be the first to tell you that,” said Cutler, who posted a 28.2 passer rating in his first game against Green Bay. “But they’re going to do a good job of taking him away, so for us to be successful down the road, we’re going to have to have other guys make plays for us.”
Even in the biggest game of his career, he vowed to stay patient if the Packers smothered him with two or three defenders at a time.
“We won’t force the ball to me,” Marshall said.
“If they want to give me one-on-one coverage, they will pay. If they want to double- and triple-cover me, then we will lean on other guys, and our guys will step up and make plays.”