The Bears' dependence on Brandon Marshall has reached ridiculous proportions.
Marshall's 1,342 receiving yards are more than the next seven Bears combined. Rookie Alshon Jeffery has 256 receiving yards, which is No. 2 on the team but less than one-fifth of Marshall's total.
Marshall's 101 receptions are as many as the next four teammates combined. The first-year Bear has 9 touchdown catches, the same number as the rest of the team combined.
Marshall's having the best season a Bears receiver has ever had -- by a wide margin. He's already topped Marty Booker's old single-season record of 100 catches, and he's on the verge of Marcus Robinson's single-season mark of 1,400 yards with three games to go.
Marshall even became a motivational speaker this week, spewing venom against the Packers to amp up the intensity early in the week. Coach Lovie Smith wasn't sure how effective Marshall's words would be, but his actions have been inspirational.
"What Brandon Marshall is doing that's stimulating our locker room and our team," Smith said, "is his play on the football field."
The problem is, the Bears' passing offense is even worse with Marshall than it was without him last season.
Last year the Bears were No. 26 in passing yards and No. 23 in average gain per pass play, and that was an offense that was without QB Jay Cutler for six games. Those numbers are far from great, but they're better than this year's.
The Bears are currently No. 27 in both passing yards and average gain per pass play.
It was a tough week for special teams.
Kicker Robbie Gould was placed on season-ending injured reserve and replaced by 16-year veteran Olindo Mare, who beat out several competitors.
"Olindo made all his kicks, he was 100 percent," special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. "He outperformed everybody."
Gould had hit 10 straight field-goal attempts from 50 yards or longer.
"His leg isn't as strong as Robbie's, most aren't," coach Lovie Smith said of the 39-year-old Mare. "But for the most part we're not going to adjust much."
Toub also lost key special teams performers Sherrick McManis (knee) and Craig Steltz (chest), who were also placed on injured reserve. McManis was third with 10 special teams tackles and Steltz was sixth with 7. Their replacements must come from within.
"It's very difficult at this point," Toub said. "There's not a guy on the street you can bring here and be a great player for you because he hasn't been in the room, he hasn't heard your voice, he doesn't know your system, he doesn't know the plays.
"We have to get it done with the guys that are here, the guys that are on the team. I explained that to the guys. Those guys are going to have to step up and they will."
Backup tight end Kyle Adams will play a bigger role on special teams today and more changes might be necessary if leading special teams tackler Blake Costanzo has to fill in on defense for strong-side linebacker Geno Hayes (knee injury).
No teammate knows the NFL's leading receiver Brandon Marshall better than quarterback Jay Cutler, who was also his teammate for three years in Denver.
"He's an unbelievable player," Cutler said. "I think the city of Chicago knows what kind of player Brandon is. I'm more proud of what he's done in the locker room and how he's carried himself from practice to practice and week to week."
Marshall has had multiple off-the-field problems in the past and has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, but his behavior has been exemplary as a Bear. Cutler said he isn't surprised by Marshall's increased maturity, but he is pleased.
"We're all a little bit older, and Brandon's been through a little bit more than other people and other players have been through," Cutler said. "It's just refreshing to see a guy going down a certain path and making necessary changes to be a better person and player."Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.