He’s also given quarterback Jay Cutler a big target on the outside and a receiver he can trust from their days back in Denver. Marshall has more than double the receptions and targets of any other Bears receiver this year.
Cutler and Marshall have connected 35 times for nearly 500 yards and three touchdowns this season. It’s no surprise, really. Dating back to Denver toward the end of the 2006 season, the combo has 255 receptions for 3,319 yards and 17 touchdowns.
“It does help (Cutler) to have a target,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said this week in a conference call. “We have a legitimate No. 1 target just like Detroit has a legitimate No. 1 target (
It can’t be understated how important Marshall has been to Cutler. Imagine if Stafford didn’t have Johnson? What would the Lions offense look like?
FALLING ON HOUSTON
The task of slowing down Marshall Monday night in Chicago will fall on Lions cornerback
Since returning Week 3 from a high ankle sprain suffered in the preseason, Houston has played arguably the finest football of his career. He’s playing so well, in fact, the Lions have been isolating him on the opponent’s best receiver week-after-week -- something they haven’t always done in the past.
“He has moved around a little bit more than in the past, but (it’s) because of the way he’s been playing,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said. “That’s all justified by his play on the field. Since he’s been back from the ankle injury he’s played well. He’s tackled well, he’s defended the pass well, and good job in man, good job in zone.”
The matchup Monday between Houston and Marshall will be one of the keys to the game. Schwartz said it would be “fun to watch.”
“The coaches just gave me the green light,” Houston said of shadowing the opponent’s best receiver. “It started off with Kenny Britt (Titans), DeSean Jackson (Eagles). They allowed me to go in and play Percy Harvin (Vikings), they let me go and play the best wide receiver on each team.
“I've been doing it these past weeks so (Marshall) just presents a different challenge. (I've been) going against Johnson in practice and they have the same body. He's a big physical receiver. He's one of my top five top receivers in the game so it's going to be a challenge the whole game."
SECRET TO SUCCESS
Houston says the secret to his success has been a film study regimen that borders on obsession.
“The whole day here (I watch film). Then when I get home I probably eat and I probably watch film from six to ten,” Houston said. “Watching film all day repeatedly every day. I'm not a go-out person. I just try to see little things (receivers) might do. I watch different games.
“They break the film down (by) wide receiver, his catches. You can watch games or you can watch the wide receiver individually, so I go watch the games then I watch the wide receiver individually, his catches. I start looking at hash splits and just reminded myself of those things.”
The film study preparing for last week’s game in Philadelphia directly resulted in his first interceptions of the season last week, Houston told reporters Saturday.
“You can watch a game and know what he's about to do,” he said. "Same thing when you get out on the field like with DeSean Jackson. I watched that play so much that when he motioned to it I was already ready for it.”
Houston said secondary and third-down package coach Tim Walton has started something new this year with all the players in the secondary. They have to write a small report on some aspect of the film study each week -- rookie included -- and present the report to the rest of the group.
“It actually goes a long way because those guys actually have to go look at the film,” he said. “Coaches already studied the film so they know if you're lying or it you watched it. We didn't do it last year here but we started to do the reports this year."
So what has Houston seen on film from Marshall?
“Physical. He looks to body you with everything he does,” he said. “Inside routes, down in the goal line, back shoulder type of guy. Fade guy. But most of all his routes are called inside. And he wants to he ahead of you, push off you off to get inside so basically body.”
It’ll be up to Houston to study the film and try to figure out a way to stop it.