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Brandon Marshall pays immediate dividend

Bears receiver BrandMarshall awards his shoe fortunate fan as he comes off field after team’s 41-21 victory against Colts. Marshall

Bears receiver Brandon Marshall awards his shoe to a fortunate fan as he comes off the field after the team’s 41-21 victory against the Colts. Marshall caught eight passes for 119 yards and a touchdown. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: October 11, 2012 6:19AM

When before have we seen a wide receiver like this for the Bears?

I could be wrong, but I’m thinking never.

Brandon Marshall is as big as defensive ends were way back in the day. He’s 6-4, 230. And he’s lean.

And fast. And has great hands. Huge hands, like a basketball forward’s. And those hands are encased in sticky gloves that resemble the palms of a tree frog.

If you were a cornerback like, say, 5-10, 187-pound Jerraud Powers of the Colts, what would you do if a monster like Marshall lined up three yards from the goal line and then button-hooked in front of you in the end zone while awaiting a bullet thrown by Jay Cutler?

You would do nothing. Which is precisely what Powers did early in the second quarter when Marshall did the above.

The short touchdown catch gave the Bears a 14-7 lead and catapulted them toward a 41-21 rout. The touchdown was the first scoring linkup between the two old Denver Broncos teammates, Cutler and Marshall, and it seemed to herald perhaps a new history in Bears passing offense.

Asked to describe the maiden score, Marshall was succinct, even abbreviated. “Went in, turned around, Jay threw it, caught it, touchdown.’’

If it can be that simple from here on out, what an offense the Bears will enjoy. Marshall is already Cutler’s favorite target, by a mile. Cutler targeted him 15 times, throwing 20 passes to the rest of the team. Marshall caught eight for 119 yards and a TD. Fellow large wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, a 6-3, 216-pound rookie from South Carolina, was targeted five times. He caught three for 80 yards, including a gorgeous 42-yard end-zone grab, a sizzling parabola from Cutler that covered almost 60 yards in the air.

“He opens up the field a lot,’’ said Jeffery of Marshall’s effect on the defenses. “[But] we look at it like we open up the field for each other. They got to try to defend whoever has the hot hand.’’

This is true. And Marshall had one of the best metaphorical responses of the early NFL season while acknowledging that point.

“Today it just happened to be a wheelbarrow for me,’’ he said. “But next week it might be a shot glass.’’

You had to love the creativity but flinch at the thought of alcohol — shots of anything — being associated with Marshall.

His off-the-field issues, some that have occurred in night clubs, are the reason the Pro Bowl receiver is playing for his third team in four years. But he’s been a model citizen since joining the Bears last spring, coming clean about his personality-disorder issue and admitting that he must rise to the challenge of acting like a responsible adult if he wants to achieve his football potential.

And what potential that is. Marshall has already had five 1,000-yard receiving seasons in his six NFL years. If he again breaks 1,000 yards, it will mean six seasons in a row over the mark, and it will mean a Hall of Fame receiver could be in our midst.

“He changes things,’’ said Cutler, who threw for 333 yards, two TDs and one silly interception that Indy returned for a short score. “I thought Indy wasn’t scared of him. They were going to let him make plays if he was capable of making plays. They were going to stop the run and go man against us.’’

That didn’t work out too well. Marshall ran one stop-and-go for big yardage, and poor cornerback Powers, playing man-to-man, got faked all the way to the ground on the move. If a jock was lying on the rough turf at Soldier Field after the game, I hope the grounds crew thought enough to return it to the defensive back.

Yes, the Bear have had big wide outs such as Muhsin Muhammad and David Terrell and Marcus Robinson. Terrell was Terr-ible, and Muhammad was over the hill. Robinson was pretty good for a brief time, but his injured knee derailed his career.

Nothing’s for sure in this tenuous game. And Marshall could go down or blow up at any time. But for now, he’s something new and fresh and amazing for the Bears.

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