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updated: 10/18/2012 9:11 PM

Marshall, Johnson: clash of the titans

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  • Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) avoids a tackle by Philadelphia Eagles strong safety Nate Allen (29) during the second half an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, in Philadelphia.

      Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) avoids a tackle by Philadelphia Eagles strong safety Nate Allen (29) during the second half an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, in Philadelphia.
    Associated Press

  • Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall runs after a catch in the first half against the St. Louis Rams Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago.

      Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall runs after a catch in the first half against the St. Louis Rams Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 

Comparisons of the Bears' 6-foot-4, 230-pound wide receiver Brandon Marshall and the Detroit Lions' 6-5, 236-pound wide receiver Calvin Johnson are inevitable.

They are Exhibit A and 1A when it comes to the big, physical wide receivers who are all the rage in today's NFL.

Since the start of the 2007 season, Marshall has 6,434 receiving yards, fifth most in the league. Johnson, 27, who was just a rookie in '07, is right behind the 28-year-old Marshall with 6,420.

Johnson has 50 touchdowns to Marshall's 35, and only Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, with 52, has more. Johnson's 16.0-yard average per catch is the best of that bunch by a wide margin, while Marshall is at 12.7.

Marshall is well ahead of pace for his sixth straight 1,000-yard season. Johnson should easily surpass 1,000 yards for the fourth time in five seasons. In 2009 he fell just 16 yards short of 1,000.

"He's as advertised," Marshall said. "I won't mention who's in my top 10 (wide receivers), but he's definitely one of them. I really like what he's doing. He had an amazing year last year, so a lot of us guys are trying to keep up with the pace that he set."

Johnson was dominant last season with an NFL-best 1,681 yards on 96 catches, and his 16 TDs were just 1 behind league-leader Rob Gronkowski.

He and quarterback Matthew Stafford have established themselves as one of the league's premier pitch-and-catch combos. But broach that topic to Marshall, and he has to bite his tongue.

The 2006 fourth-round draft pick caught 206 passes for 2,590 yards in his first two seasons as a starter in Denver (2007-08) with Jay Cutler as his quarterback.

"Man, I try so hard not to give sound bites," he said. "We were the first to do it as far as these new tandems, these new combinations that we see today in (Cincinnati's) A.J. (Green) and (Andy) Dalton and Stafford and Calvin.

"When I look at us, it'd be scary to see where we would be right now if we stayed together."

After three years apart, Cutler and Marshall are back together, and in the past two weeks it's as if they were never apart. Marshall has 19 catches for 282 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice has clearly made getting the ball to the big man a priority. But Marshall says there's a lot more to his and Cutler's chemistry than game planning.

"There are just some things you have to have a feel for," Marshall said. "It's special playing with Jay. We just have a great feel for each other as far as what holes to sit in and how to make adjustments on the run.

"You have to do that in this league. We have great coaches and we rely on them, but there are also some times where you just have to make plays. Those (other) guys right now … Jay and I, it's our first year back together … I'm going to leave it at that."

Marshall claims he won't be motivated Monday night by competing on the same field as Johnson.

"I just have to be the best wide receiver for the Chicago Bears and play my role," he said. "So, if it's catching 10 balls one week or if it's 2 or 3 the next week and blocking in the run game, it's the same for me."

Both king-size wideouts have 35 catches this season. Johnson has more yards (558-496), but Marshall has 3 TDs to Johnson's 1. They will be on center stage in the nationally televised NFC North clash.

"We have a (No.) 1 receiver who's playing outstanding ball," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "He's big (and) physical. The two No. 1 receivers you're going to see on the field Monday night are about as good as you're going to see in the league this year. That should be worth coming to the game just to watch the two of these guys play.

That's fine with Marshall, who relishes the spotlight.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't," he admits. "I'm watching some of the commercials, and they have (Johnson) and I matched up, so it's pretty cool. I look at it as an honor, so I definitely love some attention.

"But when you have that spotlight on you, you have to show up, and you have to perform."

rlegere@dailyherald.com

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