Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall yields to Earl Bennett, Alshon Jeffery
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org
Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) makes a 55-yard reception during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in Detroit, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
DETROIT — Jay Cutler seemed to know it wasn’t going to be Brandon Marshall’s day. He finally had a Plan B that worked.
With Marshall ‘‘banged up’’ after a long season of being great, his supporting cast came through when Cutler needed it most in the 26-24 victory Sunday over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.
Alshon Jeffery had a 55-yard reception on the Bears’ first play from scrimmage and finished with four catches for 76 yards. Earl Bennett darted down the sideline to turn a wide receiver screen into a 60-yard touchdown on Cutler’s fourth pass to give the Bears a 7-3 lead. He led the Bears with five receptions for 109 yards.
Despite being targeted 14 times, Marshall had five receptions for 42 yards — his third-lowest yardage total this season and fewest in a victory. He had one catch for one yard at halftime. The highlight of his day was a key block that helped spring Bennett for his touchdown.
‘‘It was good to see,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘Brandon, he’s a little banged up. It’s been a long season for him — a lot of catches, a lot of opportunities. [With Jeffery], you could see how I was trying to get that one early to kind of get him going. Earl came back and had that nice [play down] the sideline.
‘‘So getting those guys going ... I thought the offensive line blocked well. Matt Forte ran the ball hard. Kahlil [Bell] ran the ball well. Some good things to take away from that game.’’
It was a long time coming for Bennett, a former go-to guy for Cutler who has struggled through a disappointing season. Bennett missed four games because of injuries and came into the regular-season finale with 24 receptions for 266 yards.
‘‘It’s always a lot of fun when you get out there and make plays and help the offense,’’ Bennett said. ‘‘Today, I got involved a lot more. It was exciting.’’
The 100-yard game was the second of his five-year career. The other one also was at Ford Field — seven catches for 104 yards in a 24-20 victory in 2010.
‘‘I just try to make plays when I’m given the opportunity, and I had the opportunity,’’ Bennett said. ‘‘Brandon made a great block. Jay made a great throw, and I just did the rest.’’
The touchdown, Bennett’s second of the season, came on an audible. It was a well-executed ‘‘bubble screen’’ that quickly launched Bennett to the end zone.
‘‘Jay just saw what he saw in the defense and gave us the check, and we went with it,’’ Bennett said.
Until Sunday, Jeffery was the only Bears receiver besides Marshall to have more than 50 yards in a game. Jeffery had that after one play — a 55-yard reception on a deep ball down the sideline.
‘‘We just took a shot on the first play of the game,’’ Jeffery said. ‘‘We just executed. It was a great throw by Jay and a great route by me.’’