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Eric Goska column: Bears' Jeffery, Marshall double trouble for opponents

Dec. 28, 2013
 
Chicago Bears v Arizona Cardinals
Chicago Bears wide receivers Brandon Marshall, left, and Alshon Jeffery have combined for 180 catches, 2,562 receiving yards and 18 touchdown receptions in 2013. / File/Getty Images
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Unbearably good

Bears receiving duos who gained 2,000 or more yards receiving in one season.
Yards Duo Year
2,562 A. Jeffery/B. Marshall 2013
2,347 M. Robinson/B. Engram 1999
2,338 J. Graham/C. Conway 1995
2,097 J. Morris/M. Ditka 1964

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Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall have soared to new heights for the Chicago Bears.

Should the wide receivers maintain altitude, their season-long flight might go down as one of the best in NFL history.

On Sunday, the Packers get a second look at this troublesome twosome when they visit Soldier Field. Both Jeffery and Marshall caught a touchdown pass in Chicago’s 27-20 win at Lambeau Field early last month.

Unless you’re a defensive back covering them, it’s not hard to get a bead on Jeffery and Marshall. The two are among the league leaders in receptions and receiving yards. Marshall has 94 catches (tied for 5th) for 1,221 yards (11th). Jeffery has 86 receptions (tied for 8th) for 1,341 yards (6th).

Together, they account for just over half of the Bears’ receptions and more than 60 percent of the team’s receiving yards. They have more touchdown catches (18) than six teams: Jets (13), Bills (15), Jaguars (15), Raiders (15), Giants (17) and Vikings (17).

Dangerous in their own right, they are nearly unstoppable in tandem.

The two have combined for more than 100 receiving yards in every game this season. They have surpassed 150 yards nine times and have gone over 200 on three occasions.

They’re dangerous on the road: 97 receptions for 1,368 yards and 9 touchdowns. They’re a force at home: 83 catches for 1,194 yards and 9 touchdowns.

Marshall and Jeffery have more catches (180) this season than any other pair of teammates. They also have produced more receiving first downs (128).

They have combined for 2,562 receiving yards, and became the first duo in Bears’ history to surpass 2,500 yards when they hauled in 10 passes for 112 yards in a 54-11 loss in Philadelphia.

Jeffery and Marshall trail only Denver’s Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker (2,578) in receiving yards this season.

Over the years, the Bears lagged behind offensively. From 1920 through 2011, Chicago had just 11 instances of a receiver surpassing 1,000 yards in a season.

Before 2013, only three pairs of receivers had combined for 150 catches. In 1964, Johnny Morris (93) and Mike Ditka (75) became the first to do so with 168. Bobby Engram (88) and Marcus Robinson (84) broke that record with 172 in 1999. And Marshall (118) and Matt Forte (44) teamed for 162 a year ago.

As for 2,500 yards? That was never really on the radar for the Bears. The team came closest in 1999 when Robinson (1,400) and Engram (947) combined for 2,347 yards.

While amassing 2,500 yards has become more frequent in the NFL, it is far from routine. It has happened 31 times, with Detroit’s Herman Moore (1,686) and Brett Perriman (1,488) garnering the most yards (3,174) in 1995.

Moore and Perriman’s record remains safe. But Marshall and Jeffery could wind up with the sixth-best season of all time if they approach their season average of 170.8 yards today against the Packers.

In Green Bay on Nov. 4, the two combined for 167 yards. Marshall had 107 on seven catches and Jeffery added 60 on five receptions.

They moved the chains 11 times through the air. It was the most by a Bears pair since Marty Booker (9) and John Davis (3) had 12 on Oct. 7, 2002.

Chicago had 11 possessions. Twice Jeffery and Marshall caught passes on the same drive. Twice the Bears scored TDs.

Marshall (13) and Jeffery (9) were targeted 22 times that day. No doubt the Bears will seek them out with regularity again.

Meanwhile, the Packers will try to limit Marshall and Jeffery as much as possible. But if Green Bay is to win, they may see more of the tandem than they’d like.

In victory, Marshall and Jeffery average 141.3 yards and 11.0 receptions per game. In defeat, those averages jump noticeably to 204.6 and 13.1, respectively.

Either way, the Bears are sure to put on an aerial display that will challenge Green Bay as few have this season.

Regular-season series

Overall: Chicago leads 92-87-6

At Soldier Field: Packers lead 21-19

Starting quarterbacks

Packers: Aaron Rodgers (57-29 overall; 8-3 vs. Chicago)

Bears: Jay Cutler (56-47; 1-7 vs. Green Bay)

Once a Bear, now a Packer

Running back Kahlil Bell (2009-12) is a former Bear.

Once a Packer, now a Bear

Cornerback Derrick Martin (2009-10) is a former Packer.

aegoska@sbcglobal.net

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