The Herald Bulletin

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Pro Sports

September 12, 2012

Marshall, Bears offer new challenge to Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. — With two words, Jay Cutler dismissed the notion that the Green Bay Packers would be able to disrupt the Chicago Bears' new-look wide receiver corps with physical play: Good luck.

Emboldened by a makeover that featured the arrival of Brandon Marshall, Cutler believes the Bears are better prepared to handle any sort of clutching, grabbing or jamming by the Packers.

"Our speed guys are going to get around them and our big guys are going to throw and go," Cutler said. "We invite press coverage. We invite man. And if we get in that type of game, our guys outside have to make some plays for us."

And if the Bears (1-0) somehow find a way to outscore Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (0-1) at Lambeau Field on Thursday night, the result will be something that seemed unlikely going into the season: The Bears could send the NFC North heavyweights to an unlikely 0-2 start at home.

Four days after their defense got pushed around in a season-opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Packers must find a way to stop a Bears offense that put up 41 points on Indianapolis in a Week 1 victory.

Renewing the productive partnership he had with Cutler in Denver, Marshall caught nine passes for 119 yards with a touchdown.

"They definitely have better personnel, especially on the perimeter," Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said. "Jay has confidence in those guys and is definitely going to give those guys a chance to go get the ball."

Williams said Marshall's size and skill present a tough challenge but added, "I'm up for the task."

Marshall had a big game the last time he faced the Packers, catching 10 passes for 127 yards with the Miami Dolphins in 2010. He welcomes the physical brand of coverage the Packers have used to neutralize Bears receivers in the past.

"It's all about matchups," Marshall said. "I'm 6-5, 230. There aren't too many DBs walking around that big. If they want to get physical, I do welcome that. But again, you look at Williams and (Sam) Shields over there and even (Charles) Woodson when he's down there, they like to mix it up a lot. They give you different looks and that's what gives them big-play potential."

Besides changes on offense, which also included drafting another big wide receiver in Alshon Jeffery and signing free agent running back Michael Bush to team with Matt Forte — the Bears also have a new look led by Mike Tice.

"I think there is a big difference to what we are doing offensively," Cutler said. "This is a totally different scheme, a mentality and direction that we are going offensively. So, there would be no advantage for (the Packers) watching tape from last year of what we did. It's totally different. I think they understand that."

One thing the Bears didn't appear to fix in the offseason was their offensive line.

Cutler was sacked 23 times in 10 games last season before breaking his right thumb. He was sacked twice in Sunday's victory over Indianapolis — and the Colts played most of the game without Dwight Freeney, who left with a sprained left ankle.

While the Packers' defense got pushed around by the 49ers, it did manage to sack Alex Smith four times. That's an indication that they might have fixed one of last year's biggest defensive deficiencies.

"I thought we did some good things in the pass rush," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "The statistical support of that would be the four sacks, but I thought we had good pressure (throughout the game)."

Green Bay could be without wide receiver Greg Jennings, who hurt his groin in the game, has missed practice time and is listed as doubtful. The Packers could again try to create mismatches with Randall Cobb, who caught a team-high nine passes last week.

Rodgers tore the Bears apart in last time the teams met, completing 21 of 29 passes for 283 yards and five touchdowns in a Christmas Day win at Lambeau.

The Packers will be hoping for more production from Cedric Benson, who had nine carries for only 18 yards last week. Benson, a first-round pick by Chicago in 2005, had 189 yards rushing when he faced the Bears with Cincinnati in 2009.

Expect Rodgers to test linebacker Brian Urlacher, who missed nearly all of training camp and the preseason with a left knee injury that required surgery. With the Bears up big, Urlacher came out of the Colts game early, presumably to rest up for the quick turnaround.

"Looks like he's moving around pretty good," Rodgers said. "They were up by 20 when he came out. I would expect him to be ready to go."

Bears coach Lovie Smith insists that Urlacher is the same player he was before the injury.

"He still is that guy," Smith said. "He's the face of our franchise. That's not going to change. He had an injury. A lot of guys go through injuries. I thought last week that was a good start for him. He got about 30 plays. He was old Brian."

 

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