Brandon Marshall already has four 100-yard receiving games this season, the most by a Bear since Marcus Robinson had five in 1999, when he set the franchise record with 1,400 receiving yards. Marshall is on pace for 1,594 yards, 118 catches and 14 receiving TDs, all of which would be team records.
Marshall admits he and quarterback Jay Cutler are working well together but downplays talk of his "record-shattering" season.
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"Yeah, if that's what you want to call it," he said. "But we're just taking advantage of our opportunities, and we're seeing the game the same way right now. We're on the same page."
Marshall hopes his success will create opportunities for other skill-position players to contribute.
"Hopefully what we're doing can start opening it up for our tight ends a little bit more, our (other) wide receivers (and) our running game," he said. "I think in the second half of the season we'll definitely see guys really making plays to move the chains for us."
It isn't just defensive player of the year candidate J.J. Watt who makes the Texans' defensive line effective.
The "other" defensive end, Antonio Smith, went to the Pro Bowl last season and has 4 sacks this year. Nose tackle Shaun Cody is the unsung block absorber.
"They're very athletic, very quick, very forceful surging across the line of scrimmage," Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice said. "They don't play soft. They play penetrating defense. They remind me of some of the really good Pittsburgh Steelers defenses that we played against over the years, meaning that they play on the other side of the line of scrimmage. They're very good."
Strength vs. strength:
The Bears have 28 takeaways, the most in the NFL.
The Texans have just 6 turnovers, the fewest in the league.
Texans coach Gary Kubiak doesn't have to take special precautions this week to stress the importance of protecting the football because that's always a priority.
"Protecting the ball is not something (that) all of a sudden you take one week and say, 'Let's work on it,'" Kubiak said. "We do it every day. It's going through chutes and stuff for all of our players that handle the ball. It's just part of our process as we try to be a team that wins the turnover battle. We work real hard at it defensively, too."
Still, Kubiak is impressed with what the Bears have accomplished.
"Twenty-eight (turnovers) in eight games, that's incredible," he said. "There are some people that are exceptional at it, and they've kind of been over the top this year. They've been tremendous."
Linebacker Brian Urlacher (coach's decision/knee), defensive tackle Matt Toeaina (calf) and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hand) did not practice Thursday. Everyone else had full participation.
For the Texans, tight end Owen Daniels (back), a Naperville Central High School graduate; nose tackle Shaun Cody (ribs) and backup running back Ben Tate (hamstring) did not practice. Four other starters were limited.