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Brandon Marshall, Bears must be ready for Cardinals’ ‘vise’ coverage

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Updated: January 24, 2013 6:27AM

Asked about Arizona Cardinals standout cornerback Patrick Peterson, Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall rattled off nothing but compliments. He knows what he’s up against this Sunday in the desert.

‘‘I got a text message from my college coach that also coached at LSU when [Peterson] was there, and he said, ‘This is the best athlete you’re going to go against this year,’ ” Marshall said. “I’ve got my hands full this week. I know he’ll follow me around a little bit.’’

And Peterson will bring company. Stopping Marshall means you stop the Bears’ offense. He’s proved to be the Bears’ only consistent threat en route to a record-breaking season.

While Peterson figures to be all over Marshall in bump-and-run coverage, the Cardinals’ underrated 3-4 defense should give him and quarterback Jay Cutler plenty of looks to contend with, just like the Green Bay Packers have done this season. It may include putting a ‘‘vise’’ on Marshall — essentially putting two defenders in his face in press coverage.

The Cardinals at times lined up two players over Detroit Lions star receiver Calvin Johnson in their 38-10 victory last week. Vise coverage looks as if they are treating him as a gunner on a punt team.

‘‘They played some interesting coverages to Calvin last week,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘[They] kind of iced him like a punt return. So whether they do that to Brandon, we’re going to have to find out Sunday.’’

Johnson still had 10 catches for 121 yards last week, but the Cardinals were effective with the vise early in the game on third downs and if he was lined up in the slot. They eliminated his route from the beginning, throwing off any timing he had with quarterback Matthew Stafford.

The diagrammed play is an example of that. The Cardinals put starting cornerback William Gay and free safety Kerry Rhodes on Johnson, who is lined up between a tight end and receiver in the Lions’ shotgun formation. The Lions’ other receivers have single man-to-man coverage, while the Cardinals have a single-high safety deep.

On this play, Stafford sees the coverage and adjusts before the snap. Johnson is able to free himself, but not before Stafford is pressured and throws early to receiver Kris Durham. The pass is incomplete.

This coverage isn’t exactly new to the Bears. The Jacksonville Jaguars did it to Marshall in Week 5 on their own 10-yard line, leaving rookie Alshon Jeffery with one-on-one coverage. Cutler saw it and threw a touchdown pass to Jeffery on a slant.

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