Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall knows his challenge will be two-fold Sunday vs. Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan — not only getting open, but keeping his cool against a player known for aggressively battling — some say baiting — wide receivers with physical play.
When Finnegan was with the Tennessee Titans in 2010, he and Houston Texans All-Pro Andre Johnson were ejected and fined $25,000 for fighting after an altercation off the line of scrimmage. It was Finnegan’s fourth fine that season.
Marshall jokingly fretted about meeting the same fate Sunday. ”Cortland and I have a great relationship,” Marshall said. ”I have his jersey up in my locker room. So Cortland, just stay in there until the whistle so we both can get a [pay] check around Week 4, OK?”
But Marshall and Finnegan do have a history. Two weeks prior to the Andre Johnson fight, against Marshall and the Miami Dolphins, Finnegan held Marshall to three catches for 34 yards in a 29-17 Dolphins victory. After his second catch, a 10-yard gain in the third quarter, a frustrated Marshall fired the ball toward the sideline and was penalized for delay of game.
Finnegan claimed he had been calling Marshall’s pass patterns just off the Dolphins’ formations. ”He didn’t like that,” Finnegan said after that game. But Marshall’s frustration also might have stemmed from the inability of Dolphins quarterbacks to get him the ball against the 5-10 Finnegan. They used three in that game — Chad Pennington, Chad Henne and Tyler Thigpen.
When Marshall had Jay Cutler throwing to him with the Denver Broncos against Finnegan and the Titans in 2007, Marshall had four receptions for 56 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown — not against Finnegan –in a 34-20 Broncos victory. But both players were in their second year in the NFL and the rivalry had not been established.
Bears wide receivers coach Darryl Drake noted that the Rams have ”some feisty guys” in their secondary without mentioning Finnegan. Asked specifically if he had warned his receivers about Finnegan’s tactics, Drake indicated they should already know they can’t get baited into an altercation. In the Bears preseason game against the Redskins, rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was penalized for unnecessary roughness for scrapping with cornerback DeAngelo Hall. Finnegan is a much more effective instigator.
”They’ve got to understand that. That is his game. That’s been his game,” Drake said. ”He does a great job at it. He plays that way, and you have to adjust.
”You can’t get caught up in that. But it is a physical game, he gets physical, we have to get physical within the rules and the whistle. You play ’til the whistle stops. Once the whistle stops, the play’s over.”