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Titans Defense wants to Disrupt Bears Combo

Posted Nov 1, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The stat sheet simply reinforces what Titans defenders know.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler wants to throw the ball to Brandon Marshall on Sunday when Chicago (6-1) visits Tennessee (3-5) at LP Field.

Cutler is 125-of-215 passing this season for 1,545 yards. Marshall has accounted for 50 catches, 675 yards and four touchdowns on 80 targets, and no other Bears player has 20 receptions on the season.

Part of the propensity is an injury to rookie Alshon Jeffery, who will miss his third straight game, part is chemistry that Cutler and Marshall developed earlier in their careers with Denver, and part is because it’s yielded considerable success this season.

Titans cornerback Jason McCourty said Cutler is “not afraid to hold onto that ball and make several throws,” despite tight coverage on Marshall, who has 34 catches for 461 yards and three touchdowns in the past four games.

“With Alshon Jeffery going down, Brandon Marshall’s catches have skyrocketed even more than where they were at,” McCourty said. “They definitely have a good connection. You can tell when they’re out there, he’s looking for him and getting the ball to him. Brandon Marshall is an extremely talented wide receiver, so even if he’s covered, (Cutler) can force the ball in there and (Marshall) can come up with the catch, so it’s going to be a challenge for us.”

This will be the first time for many Titans to play the Bears in the regular season, but McCourty and Alterraun Verner did see Marshall in 2010 when he was a member of the Miami Dolphins. Tennessee limited Marshall to three catches for 34 yards that day.

“I remember we said we had to be physical with him, try to almost take him out of his game a little bit, but it’s hard,” Verner said. “I mean he’s an elite receiver, and he and Jay Cutler have a great connection together, so we’ve got to be aggressive and try and dislodge the ball from him because he has really good hands, and Jay Cutler tries to find him and get the ball to him.”

Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said Marshall has been making catches “even when there’s guys draped on him.”

Chicago has been fairly balanced on offense with 202 rushes and 216 pass attempts, but has given up 25 sacks of Cutler, including seven in their loss to the Packers and 11 in the past two weeks.

Detroit, which did not record a sack against Tennessee in Week 3, dropped Cutler for a loss five times for minus-25 yards, and Carolina sacked him six times for losses of 55 yards last week.

Titans defensive end Derrick Morgan said limiting Chicago’s success at running the ball will be important in producing similar results this week.

“If you watch film, you can see what’s going on and know that there’s going to be an opportunity out there if you execute and take care what you’ve got to take care of,” Morgan said. “We’ve got to win on first down to actually get an opportunity to rush the passer because if we don’t, they’re going to run it all day. So, we’ve got to stop the run first.”

The Titans have 11 sacks on the season and have recorded at least one sack in each of the past for games and registered two against Colts rookie QB Andrew Luck. Titans coach Mike Munchak has said sacks don’t always reveal the total amount of pressure a defense is able to apply.

The Titans said they hope to pressure Cutler so much that it adversely affects his performance the way the Packers did. Green Bay held Cutler to 11-of-27 passing for 126 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions.

The Bears rallied for a fourth quarter win last week against the Panthers, and the Titans fell in overtime to the Colts, despite keeping Indianapolis out of the end zone for the game’s first 56 minutes. Tennessee wants to recover and make it to 5-5 before its bye, and that would require winning its only home game of November on Sunday.

“You’ve got to play hard and aggressive football for 60 minutes,” Verner said. “We’ve got to try to put together a complete football game, and I don’t think we’ve done that so far.

“It’s critical to win, no matter where we are,” Verner continued. “This is a big game. All the games from here out are going to be very big, but this one’s definitely going to be big against a high-quality opponent like the Bears, but it’s something we need.”

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