LAKE FOREST, Ill. --Jay Cutler needs Brandon Marshall, considering the receiver accounts for 50.8 percent of Chicago's net passing yardage, and has hauled in nearly three times as many balls (59) as Matt Forte (20 catches), the club's second-leading receiver.
Marshall seems just as dependent, though.
"Jay has a great feel," Marshall said. "That's where he's gotten better (since the two played together in Denver). I'm getting a bunch of targets. I have a decent amount of receptions. But he's not forcing it, man."
That wasn't the case for Marshall last year in Miami with instability at quarterback. In 2011, Marshall led the NFL in end zone targets (25), according to ESPN Stats and Information. Yet he scored just three touchdowns.
Through the first eight games of this season, Marshall leads the league in end zone targets (12). The difference is he has caught 5 TDs, which is best in the NFL in throws into the end zone.
Cutler admitted his reasoning behind going to Marshall so frequently stems from a combination of him being open more often than other receivers, in addition to the chemistry they share.
"Our offense is gonna go through him in the passing game," Cutler said. "That's just how it is. A lot of his catches have come in the second half. When we do have a lead, we're gonna get one on one, and he's gonna be our guy if we get that coverage."
The fact the offense typically plays with a lead in the second half of games leads teams to take chances in coverage in an attempt to stop the Bears from running the ball. Marshall said Cutler quickly notices subtle schematic changes, which allows them to gamble in the passing game for big gains once defenses go into risk-taking mode.
What's more is Marshall usually seals the deal once Cutler lets it fly. Although he's dropped four passes this season, Marshall ranks fourth in the NFL in catch percentage (93.7), according to ESPN Stats and Information.
In the red zone, Marshall has hauled in 8 of the 13 balls thrown his way for four touchdowns.
"We're seeing the game the same way right now. We're just taking advantage of our opportunities," Marshall said. "He knows exactly when I'm doubled, when they're rolling coverage, when they're trying to be a little tricky and lean a little bit my way, and he just tells me to be patient. He sees it. He has a great feel for the game. That's what makes him special."
It also contributes to the duo's chemistry. Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak once served as offensive coordinator in Denver, but left in 2005, a year before Marshall and Cutler came into the league with the Broncos. Some of the duo's former coaches are on Kubiak's staff, which is why the Texans coach knows the quarterback is "extremely talented, has a big arm, can make a lot of plays off-schedule and move around."
As coach of the AFC team for the 2012 Pro Bowl, Kubiak worked firsthand with Marshall when the receiver won Most Valuable Player honors after finishing with 176 yards and four TDs as the AFC defeated the NFC 59-41.
"You all know what he did there," Kubiak said. "They've got the pieces in place."
But Cutler refuses to "get caught up in numbers, how many touchdown, catches or yards he has." Marshall, meanwhile, just hopes their success spreads throughout the entire offense, which for the most part has been inconsistent all season.
"Hopefully what we're doing can open it up for our tight ends a little more, our wide receivers, our running game," Marshall said. "I think this second half of the season, we'll definitely see guys really making plays to move the chains for us."