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Brandon Marshall mentor, big brother to Alshon Jeffery

Updated: January 18, 2014 6:23AM



Bears quarterback Jay Cutler wasn’t the only one feeling pressure Sunday in Cleveland. Receiver Brandon Marshall felt a pressing need to make some big plays, too.

But for different reasons.

‘‘It was the pressure from Alshon [Jeffery], trying to keep up with him,’’ a smiling Marshall said.

That’s what he said he had in mind when he beat Browns cornerback Joe Haden, one of the best players at his position, in bump-and-run coverage with a leaping 41-yard catch late in the first half. That set up his five-yard touchdown grab two plays later.

‘‘It’s been weeks since I made a nice catch,’’ Marshall said. ‘‘I’ve been playing consistent. [But] I can’t let the youngster [Jeffery] outdo me.’’

But Jeffery is outdoing him, especially when it comes to highlight-reel catches that grab everyone’s attention. Jeffery has reached star status locally and is raising his profile nationally with every gravity-defying grab.

But all of that is OK with Marshall. For all the chatter about Marshall being a ‘‘diva’’ receiver, maybe there should be more talk about him being a leader.

Of course, there have been times this season where it might not always have seemed that way. Marshall’s comments after Jeffery’s 218-yard performance in the Bears’ Week 5 loss to the Saints didn’t come across well.

But it has become apparent his words might have been more out of frustration after a loss than about what Jeffery might have been doing. Look at how he has handled Jeffery’s success since. Marshall talks about him like a little brother, not just a teammate.

Marshall called Jeffery’s touchdown catch Sunday ‘‘probably his third[-best] one’’ this season.

‘‘It’s not up there with his last two,’’ he said.

Together, Jeffery and Marshall have become the best receiving tandem in the NFL and in Bears history. Jeffery (1,265) and Marshall (1,185) have combined for 2,450 receiving yards, the most for a single season in franchise history. With two games left in the regular season, they already have surpassed the 2,347 yards recorded by Marcus Robinson (1,400) and Bobby Engram (947) in 1999.

Jeffery is the best story going for the Bears this season, personifying their offensive revolution. Marshall’s work with Jeffery during the offseason undoubtedly helped, but his work with Jeffery during the season — take their strong blocking on runs as an example — and his voice in the receivers’ room is significant.

‘‘There were no predictions here or no envisioning of how it would be [with Jeffery],’’ coach Marc Trestman said. ‘‘I’m sure he had a vision of how it would be, and that’s the most important thing in what he was going to do when he got on the field.’’

But Marshall definitely had vision when it came to Jeffery. His recruitment of tight end Martellus Bennett (59 catches, 659 yards, five touchdowns) hasn’t hurt, either. And his vocal support for Cutler is significant.

Marshall always will have his critics, but there’s no denying he has helped the Bears create a better offense after being responsible for nearly all of it last season. And all of this works to Marshall’s benefit, too.

‘‘I can say that I don’t think Brandon has been double-covered as much as he was early in the season,’’ Trestman said.

And that puts pressure on opposing defenses.

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns



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