DETROIT — On a day when record-setting wide receiver Brandon Marshall did not play anywhere near as well as he had most of the season, the Bears’ offense got some huge contributions from other receivers.
Earl Bennett re-emerged at the most opportune time with a career day after having caught just 2 passes in the past four games, two of which he missed with a concussion. Rookie Alshon Jeffery had 4 catches for 76 yards, including a 55-yard grab on the opening possession. It was his most receiving yards since opening day and the most catches since Week 3.
It was barely enough for the Bears in a 26-24 victory over the Lions.
“We needed someone else besides just Brandon,” coach Lovie Smith said. “We needed someone to really step up, and Earl did. We went to Alshon quite a bit, too.”
Late in the first quarter, Bennett took one step over the line of scrimmage and caught a quick pass from Jay Cutler. He eluded linebacker DeAndre Levy, who took a bad angle, then got a key block from Marshall and outsprinted the remainder of the Lions’ defense for a 60-yard TD.
“It was a linebacker over me and Jay checked, and I just kind of made a move and stopped his feet,” Bennett said. “Brandon did a phenomenal job on his block.”
It was just Bennett’s his second TD of the season, and it gave the Bears a 7-3 lead they never relinquished. In just his second game back from the concussion, Bennett caught a season-high 5 passes for a career-best 109 yards.
Early in the fourth quarter, nifty footwork helped him stay just barely in bounds and resulted in a 28-yard reception that set up the Bears’ final points on Olindo Mare’s fourth field goal.
“We got the coverage that we wanted,” Bennett said. “Jay looked at me, gave me a check and we just went from there. When given the opportunity, you’ve just got to make a play for Jay.”
All season Cutler has been waiting for additional threats to emerge, and against the Lions they did, helping him complete 18 of 31 passes for 257 yards and a 95.8 passer rating.
“It was good to see,” Cutler said. “Earl had that nice run and then the big conversion on the sideline.”
Cutler got little help from Marshall, who was targeted 14 times but caught just 5 passes for 42 yards. He had at least 3 drops, including 1 in the end zone, where he was targeted five times but came up empty.
“Brandon is a little banged up,” Cutler said. “It’s been a long season for him, a lot of catches, a lot of opportunities.”
Despite a disappointing regular-season finale, Marshall still finished with single-season franchise records of 118 catches and 1,508 yards.
”I thought he was OK,” coach Lovie Smith said. ”He made some plays and had opportunities to make a few more — he would say.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.