Alshon Jeffery will have his chances.
The Bears have made that clear over the season’s first month, relying on the second-year receiver to tap into his big-play abilities. And in an otherwise frustrating 40-32 road loss to the Lions Sunday, Jeffery may have provided the most encouraging effort, catching five passes for 107 yards and adding a 27-yard run on a first-half end-around.
“It’s the same thing we’ve been talking about all year. Even last year,” fellow receiver Brandon Marshall said. “This guy’s got big-play potential in him. He made some plays. And if he can continue to build off of that, man, he’s going to be unstoppable.”
Quarterback Jay Cutler continues developing trust in Jeffery, a former South Carolina star. It was a reality made clear in the fourth quarter when Jeffery broke open in the end zone then dropped an easy 14-yard TD pass. Cutler, though, went right back his way on the next snap with Jeffery delivering a score with a far greater degree of difficulty.
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With Lions rookie Darius Slay applying blanket coverage, Jeffery used his strong hands and body control to snatch the ball away.
“Exact same coverage,” Cutler said. “I just wanted to go back to him.
“They were pushing to (Marshall) a lot today – a lot of safety over the top toward him. It made it difficult to get him the ball. So I thought it was great to see Alshon step up.”
Jeffery had an eventful afternoon overall, providing his first big play with the 27-yard run early in the second quarter. Perhaps just as impressive, on the next snap, he cleared the way for Matt Forte’s 53-yard score with solid downfield blocks against Slay and safety Glover Quin.
“It was a great block,” Jeffery said. “I’ve got to watch it on film. I just ran off the ball, blocked my guy and pushed him into the safety and both fell down.”
Jeffery was also targeted on two of Cutler’s three interceptions. On the latter, Cutler’s throw sailed over Jeffery’s head and right to safety Louis Delmas. Earlier, Delmas broke on a pass over the middle and ripped it from the Bears receiver.
“It was like a bang-bang play,” Jeffery said. “It hit my hands and then he just came (and took it).”
Jeffery delivered three of the Bears’ five longest gains Sunday, including a 36-yard grab up the right sideline with 8 seconds left before halftime, putting Robbie Gould in position for his 28-yard field goal.
Even with a frustrating loss, Jeffery provided something to build on.