The last time receiver Brandon Marshall visited Lambeau Field, he was a little rude to the hosts.
As a member of the Dolphins back in 2010, Marshall used all of his 6-4, 230-pound frame to push, pull, bully and muscle his way to 10 receptions for 127 yards in Miami’s 23-20 overtime victory. He had seven of those catches for 102 yards by halftime, accounting for three-quarters of quarterback Chad Henne’s 135 first-half passing yards.
It was probably the most impressive performance by an opposing receiver at Lambeau that year, and as Marshall returns to Green Bay on Thursday night as a member of archrival Chicago, preventing a repeat of his physical domination is a high priority for the Packers.
“He was definitely productive in that game,” Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said. “Brandon is the type of guy you can move around in the offense. He’s a big guy but he’s not a big guy who you just have to keep outside. He’s a guy who’s good after the catch, physical on bump-and-run. He presents some challenges.”
Those challenges will more than likely fall into Williams’ lap. Back to his old self following a 2011 shoulder injury, Williams more often than not will be charged with matching up against the opponent’s best receiver this season.
On Thursday, that would be Marshall, who is now reunited with his former quarterback in Denver, Jay Cutler. In the Bears’ opener last week, Cutler targeted 15 of his 35 passes to Marshall, who caught nine for 119 yards and a TD. For comparison’s sake, two years ago Henne targeted 17 of his 39 throws to Marshall against Green Bay.
“You just can’t be overly physical with guys like that,” Williams said, perhaps reciting a lesson learned from the last matchup. “He’s a physical guy himself.”
Williams didn’t get much thrown his way in Week 1, as San Francisco’s Alex Smith made smart, efficient throws that attacked Green Bay’s other unsettled corner position, as well as other favorable matchups against linebackers.
That could be the case in other games this year, too, but Williams expects to be in the middle of more action on Thursday. Cutler is much more of a risk-taker than Smith, trusting his strong arm in tough spots.
“Anytime we play Chicago, no matter who it is, you’re going to get the ball thrown at you,” Williams said. “Jay is a confident guy, and he gives his guys chances to make plays. Hopefully, we get a chance to make some plays, also.”
The Packers could be without one of their top receivers in this NFC North showdown, as Greg Jennings (groin) missed his second straight practice on Wednesday and is listed as doubtful on the injury report.
Mike McCarthy said Jennings went through a number of tests on Wednesday, and how he responds on Thursday will be the determining factor. Jennings has averaged seven catches for 115 yards in each of his last three games against the Bears, though it’s worth noting he missed the Christmas night game against Chicago last year, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers still threw a career-high five TD passes and posted a 142.7 passer rating (21 of 29, 283 yards, no INT).
If Jennings is sidelined, perhaps that would mean an even larger role for second-year receiver Randall Cobb, who ran routes from the backfield and the slot on his way to nine catches for 77 yards last week.
“I hope to stack the success, but the biggest thing is an overall team win,” Cobb said. “I hope we come out on top this week.”
The Packers have done that in six of their last seven meetings with the Bears, with all but the game last Christmas decided by 10 or fewer points.
“It says a lot about our players. They’ve stepped up in these big games in the past and, frankly, that’s what they are, in the past,” McCarthy said. “I think everybody clearly understands we’re a different team than we were last year, so are they, and we’re really looking forward to getting this thing going tomorrow night.” Additional coverage - Sept. 12