Chicago Bears coverage | Bears vs. Packers | Livin' on a Prayer
Losses to Green Bay come hard to every Chicago fan. The rivalry is ingrained in every Bear. But the loss was particularly tough for wide receiver Brandon Marshall. In his first year as a Bear, the gifted Marshall has brought respect back to a position in this club that has been widely chastised. Former Bears receiver Muhsin Muhammad once claimed that "Chicago is where receivers go to die." It's been a decade since a Bears wide receiver has had a 1,000-yard season and Marshall reached that marker in 11 games. The three-time Pro Bowler has had seven 100+yards receiving games this season. The man is carrying the weight of receiving duties under double and triple coverage, and often with few backup options. His peers on the receiving core have missed multiple games with concussions and hand injuries.
Since coming to Chicago, Marshall has made obvious efforts to put past, off-field problems in his rear view mirror. He's maintained a positive demeanor in interviews and lit up games, even losses, with his energy and raw talent. So, Marshall's teary, post-game press conference was a justified reaction on Sunday afternoon. A man who has worked so diligently to restore faith in an offense that has for long been an afterthought in Lovie Smith's defense-minded game-planning should be entitled to be emotional. It's a reaction that blue-and-orange die-harders have oft craved from the stoic Smith or the seemingly aloof Jay Cutler. Fans will continue to be behind a player who they feel expresses their own disappointment.
During the press conference, Marshall claimed, "I'm very passionate about this game. It's starting to affect me more than it should." Acknowledging Marshall's past internal struggles, one does worry about the toll this losing streak takes on Marshall personally. While he may get paid for carries, Marshall should not be tasked with shouldering the entire emotional burden, amplified by nearly 100 years of team rivalry, especially when he's one of the few that is executing on the field.
At Marshall's public debut at Soldier Field, during Bears Family Fest of training camp 2012, Marshall got on the mic after the practice and addressed the crowd. He said he wanted to share a few words with all the Chicago fans and those words were, "Super Bowl!" I remember how enthusiastically he shouted them at the end of that practice. The words were uttered with conviction. It didn't feel like the obligatory, pre-season media catch phrases so many are coached to say. In that moment, Marshall made me believe him. And so, it seems that the reality of what has been derailed over these five losses in six weeks stings Marshall even harder.
The Bears could get a lucky break in that their final games are against losing teams: the Arizona Cardinals (5-9) and the Detroit Lions (4-10). However, injuries and time are not on the Bears side, with must-wins approaching and three of their best defensive players—in Brian Urlacher, Tim Jennings and Henry Melton—indefinitely out on injury. The Bears who started this season 7-1 might still resurface. If Brandon Marshall has demonstrated anything to Chicago, it's that people can turn themselves around. Rest your holiday hopes on the possibility that a team can, as well. The road goes ever on and on.