LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Chicago Bears' offense has been anything but a balancing act.
The Bears know they'll have to do more than have quarterback Jay Cutler throw to wide receiver Brandon Marshall repeatedly if they're going to handle a handful of strong defenses in the second half of the season, starting with Tennessee on Sunday.
Still, they're not necessarily willing to abandon their offensive star.
"We're like the (Minnesota) Timberwolves when Kevin Garnett was playing," Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice said. "All their offensive plays went through him and in our passing game obviously we're going to go through Brandon.
"So he's going to be the first read or an early read a lot of the times and there are other plays where we design to have a read on both sides and the coverage dictates which way the quarterback is going with the football."
When the Bears acquired Marshall in the offseason, the plan wasn't to use him as a decoy. They've followed through on that as the only game in which Marshall caught fewer than five passes was in a loss to Green Bay when he had two receptions for 24 yards.
"When you have a definite 'one,' you want to make sure you get your 'one receiver; his reps, his plays, his passes, which we are doing," coach Lovie Smith said. "But we definitely want to get others involved."
However, it hasn't exactly been a rush to the end zone even if Marshall and Cutler are piling up statistics.
The two have been at their best in clutch situations. Marshall leads the NFC in third-down receptions (16) and yardage (675), while Cutler leads the NFL with a fourth-quarter passer rating of 132.0.
The most important figures are point production. The Bears' offense — excluding defensive scoring — is averaging 20.1 points per game. That's down from the 21.9 points per game the offense scored last season in 10 games when Cutler didn't have Marshall to throw to and Mike Martz was offensive coordinator.