|Packers WR Greg Jennings says he would love to see some man-to-man coverage from the Bears. (US Presswire)|
Brandon Marshall got the first sparks flying, saying he detests the Green Bay Packers and they can only stop him with multiple defenders. Jermichael Finley added fuel to the fire, calling All-Pro Brian Urlacher “slow.” Then fellow Bears linebacker Lance Briggs stoked the flame, responding to Finley's comments with “he's an idiot.”
And, in about 24 hours, an always-heated rivalry between the Packers and Bears had ignited into a full-blown blaze.
Standing at his locker on Thursday, WR Greg Jennings was waiting for someone to ask him about the squabble. When no one did, he smiled and brought it up.
“And just a response to Brandon Marshall,” Jennings said with a grin, “I think he's smart. I don't know exactly what he said, but I think he's smart. So I'm going to be smart, too. Man, I wish the Bears would play us one-on-one and man-to-man.”
As everyone laughed, Jennings continued his ploy.
“You know, that reverse psychology, I think that's pretty impressive,” Jennings said. “Yeah, man, the Bears are always playing cover-2; I think they're scared not to play cover-2.”
Later, Jennings was asked if he thought Marshall's comments -- Marshall said, “It's personal … I want to impose my will this game” and “I really dislike the Green Bay Packers and their players” -- reflected genuine animosity or were just a means of psyching his team up for a game that, if they lose, could severely damage the Bears' playoff hopes.
“I'm sure a lot of it was just trying to jack his team up, but seriously, it's a tactic,” Jennings said. “Like, play me one-on-one. What receiver doesn't want to get played man-to-man coverage the entire game?"
In the Packers' Week 2 win over the Bears, CB Tramon Williams covered Marshall the entire game. He got double-team help some of the time, and the Packers were conscious of shading a safety toward Marshall's side to keep him from beating them deep.
Chicago QB Jay Cutler threw four interceptions in that game, including two to Williams and one to veteran DB Charles Woodson. After the game, Woodson struck the first verbal blow, saying, “It's the same old Jay. … Jay will throw us the ball.”
On Thursday, Jennings said, for pride's sake, defensive backs want to cover receivers one-on-one and shut them down -- be an island. But, he said, “Why do it when you don't have to? That's why we're a team. We help one another.”
Jennings said he doesn't believe Marshall personally dislikes the Packers players. He said it's just the nature of the Bears-Packers rivalry and that the players are friends off the field. He used the example of Bears CB Charles Tillman, a takeaway machine who leads the league with nine forced fumbles. Jennings helped to diffuse the recent hostility with some effusive praise for the veteran cornerback.
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“Tillman, great guy off the field,” Jennings said. “On the field, hate him, hate going against him. But I know I have to go against him and he's going to get my best punch and I'm going to get his best punch. You like going against guys that just want to compete.
“I can speak to that matchup. Tillman's always one of those guys that you dread, looking at them and saying, ‘Man, we got them next.' Because he's going to keep coming, play after play after play. And I'm sure he's probably thinking the same thing if he were looking at me on the film. And I want him to think the same thing because I'm not going to stop and I don't expect him to stop. That's when you get the best games, and that's why this rivalry is so special.”
And, with a chuckle, Jennings issues his adversary a personal request for Sunday's game.
“Tillman, leave us alone, please.”