Even without Jay Cutler, the Chicago Bears have a star receiver who can help make his backup look good.
It's up to Green Bay's secondary to make sure Brandon Marshall doesn't get that chance Monday night at Lambeau Field. Josh McCown will start at quarterback for Cutler, out with an injured groin.
Standing a sturdy 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Marshall is no pushover. The Packers must find a way to slow him and 6-foot-3 wideout Alshon Jeffery.
"If you want to press them or not, just maintain your leverage," said 5-foot-11 cornerback Sam Shields. "Playing great technique on them, not let them get explosive plays up the field."
Sounds easy enough, but statistics indicate it won't be a cakewalk. This is an NFC North showdown, after all, between two teams that like to push each other around. A win Monday for the Bears (4-3) would create a three-way tie atop the division with the Packers (5-2) and Lions, who are 5-3 and have a bye this week.
Marshall has 46 catches for 540 yards and five touchdowns. Jeffery has 33 catches for 561 yards and two scores.
"They use their size advantage to try to seek collision, push off, get separation," Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "They're both very good with the ball after the catch. That's the challenge is the size of these guys."
Don't forget about 6-foot-6 tight end Martellus Bennett (32 catches, 356 yards, four TDs). Marshall plans on things going well even if Green Bay shuts him down.
"I'm expecting them to definitely do something to take me out of the game and if that's the case, we have guys who can do some damage," Marshall said. "It's going to be tough, though."
Perhaps in part because the Packers now feature a full complement of relatively healthy defensive backs, with the return of Casey Hayward last week from a hamstring injury. Hayward had six interceptions last year.
Shields is probable for the game after sitting out Saturday's practice as a precaution. An offensive lineman stepped on his toes the previous day.
Tramon Williams starts opposite Shields, while Davon House and rookie Micah Hyde have had their moments off the bench the last few weeks, too.
"We just have to go out there and be as physical as possible," the 6-foot Hyde said.
Practicing jump balls during the week might come in handy Monday night.
"They're big guys who go up and get the ball," Hyde said. "It's going to be hard to limit them to zero catches, that's obvious."
For all the consternation in Bears country about being down a starting quarterback, Cutler has been subpar against Green Bay. His passer rating against the Packers is 54.8, with eight TD passes, 17 interceptions and one win in eight starts.
Coach Marc Trestman likes McCown's veteran presence. The personnel might be a little different, but the offense doesn't change, Marshall said.
"There's always ways to get guys open who face a lot of roll coverage, different schemes, double coverages. But with us, we're not going to force it to me," Marshall said. "I think it's been working for us. Now, we have to get some wins with some of our success and progress."
Chicago has lost three of four after a 3-0 start. Green Bay has won four straight.
NOTES: Besides Cutler, LB Lance Briggs (shoulder) is also out for the Bears. Defensive backs Major Wright and Charles Tillman, each with knee injuries, are probable. ... The Packers should get LB Brad Jones back from a hamstring injury, though LB Nick Perry (foot) is doubtful. He did not practice this week.
Author: GENARO C. ARMAS, AP Sports Writer