Key matchup: Bears WR Brandon Marshall vs. Titans defensive backs

Dan Parr
Report: Bears WR Marshall to undergo procedure on hip

In today’s key matchup, we take a look at the challenge the Titans’ secondary will face Sunday when it lines up across from Bears WR Brandon Marshall.

Key matchup: Bears WR Brandon Marshall vs. Titans defensive backs

The best way to keep Bears WR Brandon Marshall in check is by generating a consistent pass rush to hurry QB Jay Cutler. Marshall was held to a season-low two catches for 24 yards in Week Two when the Packers played 2-man (two deep safeties and man coverage underneath) coverage and swarmed Cutler with a havoc-wreaking pass rush throughout the game. Just last week, Marshall had only three catches for 38 yards at halftime after the Panthers racked up six first-half sacks vs. the Bears.

The Titans really cannot count on being afforded that luxury on Sunday, though — Tennessee ranks 28th in the league with 11 sacks, and the club has only five sacks in its last six games.

Barring a breakthrough game for the Titans’ front four, it is going to fall largely on the Tennessee defensive backs to minimize Marshall’s impact. CBs Alterraun Verner (one interception, three passes defensed), Jason McCourty (two INTs, seven PDs) and slot man Ryan Mouton (zero INTs, two PDs) will likely each be assigned to Marshall, as the Titans play mostly zone coverage and are not expected to have one corner shadow Cutler’s go-to guy. Tennessee has a physical group of corners, but Marshall has the size and toughness to win the one-on-one battles. Cutler will force the ball to Marshall, and occasionally it will come back to bite him — it did last week vs. the Panthers when Cutler threw a deep ball over the middle to Marshall, who had three defenders around him, resulting in a first-quarter interception.

The Titans’ defensive backs have to take advantage of those opportunities to take away the ball, if and when they are presented.

With Alshon Jeffery still expected to be sidelined as he recovers from a fractured hand, Marshall is really the only consistently reliable option for Cutler at the moment, and even Marshall had at least one drop in Week Eight. If Tennessee’s defensive backs limit Marshall’s big plays, they can slow the pace of Chicago’s offense and there is a better chance that Cutler will eventually make a mistake that can give the Titans the momentum they will need against a team with superior talent.