Bears’ Alshon Jeffery drops jaws again with stunning TD catch
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter December 9, 2013 11:00PM
Updated: December 10, 2013 12:27AM
Alshon Jeffery is so hot, all Josh McCown has to do is get it near him and it’s all good.
That might seem like hyperbole, but it wasn’t again on Monday night. On a first-and-10 from the Dallas Cowboys’ 25-yard line with 17 seconds left in the first half, McCown dropped back and lofted a pass for Jeffery in the back corner of the end zone. It had ‘‘What the heck — he might catch it’’ written all over it.
And sure enough, Jeffery did. Rising behind two defenders with his back to the corner of the end zone, Jeffery made another spectacular catch, not only beating both defenders to the ball but barely — though clearly — keeping both feet inbounds for a 25-yard touchdown that gave the Bears a 24-14 halftime lead en route to a 45-28 victory.
‘‘[I expected] a touchdown. But we didn’t know it was going to be so sweet,’’ said Brandon Marshall, who made six receptions for 100 yards. ‘‘I just embraced him and hugged him, like, ‘Man, you’re awesome.’ ’’
Jeffery finished with five receptions for 84 yards — all in the first half. But his touchdown catch had even his teammates in awe.
‘‘Everybody was talking about that play,’’ Devin Hester said. ‘‘I thought [McCown] was throwing it out of bounds. And then I saw Alshon come out of nowhere. I was like, ‘Wow. He really got that.’ ’’
‘‘[Roberto] Garza and I just looked at each other,’’ guard Kyle Long said. ‘‘We are in awe of everything those guys do.’’
Moments before the Bears honored Mike Ditka, the best tight end in franchise history, Alshon took another giant leap toward greatness of his own. A week earlier, he made a similar catch in traffic at the front corner of the end zone for a spectacular touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings. No wonder McCown just let it fly.
‘‘It was the same play as Minnesota. Just throw it up,’’ Jeffery said. ‘‘Coach [Marc] Trestman tells [McCown] to throw it up and give us a chance.’’
Jeffery is well on his way to the Pro Bowl after another impressive performance. He has 75 receptions for 1,193 yards and six touchdowns.
‘‘Earl [Bennett] brought it up that he probably has the best deep-ball skills of anybody in the game — maybe ever,’’ Marshall said. ‘‘He’s just a freak.’’
Jeffery was unimpressed as usual.
‘‘That’s what I get paid to do — catch the ball,’’ Jeffery said.
After years of neglect, the Bears suddenly have an embarrassment of riches at wide receiver. Marshall had the most prolific season for a wide receiver in Bears history in 2012: franchise records of 118 receptions and 1,508 yards, with 11 touchdowns. And Jeffery has been as good or better this season.
When Marshall caught a 14-yard pass in the first half, he went over the 1,000-yard mark to give the Bears two 1,000-yard receivers for the first time since Curtis Conway and Jeff Graham in 1995. But with all due respect to Conway and Graham — fine NFL receivers — Marshall and now Jeffery are in a different class.
Marshall deserves his share of the credit for Jeffery’s emergence. The attention Marshall gets from opposing defenses is providing Jeffery with opportunities to make plays, and he’s making them.