GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It's a good bet that for one day this season, Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall would have liked to be a San Francisco 49er.
The exact day would be Sept. 8.
That is when the Green Bay Packers played a lot of man-to-man coverage on 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin as part of their plan to contain quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his dangerous running ability.
Boldin schooled them to the tune of 13 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown in a 34-28 San Francisco victory.
Ever since that day, the Packers have refused to let another team's top wide receiver beat them. Through outstanding coverage, frequent double-teams or a little bit of both, they have negated the impact Minnesota's Greg Jennings, Cleveland's Josh Gordon, Baltimore's Torrey Smith and Cincinnati's A.J. Green have had against them.
They allowed Washington's Pierre Garcon to catch eight balls for 144 yards and a touchdown in Week 2, but he was targeted 13 times and caught five of his passes after the Packers took a 31-0 lead in the third quarter.
"Green Bay does a good job of taking out the No. 1 guy," said Marshall, who is the Bears' No. 1 guy. "After the first game getting torched by Anquan, no other No. 1 has put up huge numbers, so you have to look at that and respect what they do on defense."
A year ago, Marshall dared the Packers to cover him man-to-man, but they weren't going to take that chance with a guy who caught 10 passes for 127 yards at Lambeau Field as a member of the Miami Dolphins in 2010.
Marshall caught 118 passes last year, but only eight of them for 80 yards and a touchdown were against the Packers.
In both meetings, they matched cornerback Tramon Williams with Marshall and made sure they had a safety over the top so he couldn't beat them deep. Most of Marshall's routes were run from an outside receiver position and when he did line up in the slot, the Packers appeared to play more zone.
Asked if he thought he and Williams knew a lot about each other's game based on their previous match-ups, Marshall said, "Well, he may know my game, but I don't know his because I don't see him one-on-one. I see two guys. I don't know what his game is."
This year, Marshall is playing in a new offense and the Packers have not been matching up nearly as much.
Coach Marc Trestman has shown faith in wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey and taken advantage of the addition of athletic tight end Marcellus Bennett. Marshall leads the team in receptions with 46 for 540 yards and five touchdowns, but Jeffrey leads in yards (560) and Bennett has nearly as many touchdown catches (four).
Starter Jay Cutler will be out with a groin pull Monday night, but backup Josh McCown will be running the same offense and Marshall doesn't expect anything to change on either side.
"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.
The Packers make no bones about their philosophy of taking out the other team's top receiver and they are willing to double-team as much as they are letting Williams or Sam Shields handle one-on-one assignments.
"They're going to get the ball in the best receiver's hands," rookie cornerback Micah Hyde said of the opponent. "We know that going in. As a defense, when you play these star players, you try to take them away. That's a common theme.
"We have a goal of shutting down the other team's best threats. I think we're doing pretty well this season."
How the Packers take away Marshall will depend on whether he wants to force the Bears to spread the ball around or if he wants to challenge Jeffrey, Marcellus Bennett and receiver Earl Bennett to beat him.
Shields matched up with the Bengals' A.J. Green (four catches, 46 yards, one touchdown), but that was the only time the Packers consistently kept one corner on one receiver all game long. That was done primarily because Shields could match Green's outstanding speed.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers would be crazy not to keep a safety over the top on Marshall most of the game, but how he sets up the defense in front of the safeties is something he can play around with. At his disposal are smaller-sized speed corners (Williams, Shields, Casey Hayward) and bigger, more physical ones (Hyde, Davon House).
"I think you can bring in a lot of guys and without a doubt in your mind they can play at a high level and be productive," Williams said. "In this league, you can never have too many good DBs in the back end. Definitely a deep group."
Under Trestman, the Bears move Marshall around a lot. He is lined up in the slot and in stack formations a lot more than he was last year. Capers has the option of putting Williams, Hayward or Hyde on him in those situations or just playing zone across the board.
The difficult part no matter what will be dealing with the size of Marshall (6-4, 230 pounds) and Jeffrey (6-3, 216), both of whom can go from being covered to being open just by leaving their feet. They can provide nice options when a quarterback is under pressure and doesn't have anyone open.
"This Chicago group's a bunch of big receivers," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "They do a very good job of high-pointing the football, going up and getting the ball. They take shots as an offense.
"You can see with Jay Cutler, and I'm sure it won't be any different with Josh, the ability to take the high ball or the jump ball approach in the one-on-one situation."
Of course, the Packers' pass rush can do a lot to slow down the Bears offense and Capers will be counting on that to some degree. But this offense has better options than the one the Packers held under 200 yards in both meetings last season.
The one thing Marshall knows is that he'll see a safety playing over the top of him all game long just as he always does.
"Yeah. It sucks," he said.
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