As everyone knows by now, the most unlikely match up for the Bears first playoff game became reality when Seattle upset the Saints on Saturday and the Packers beat the Eagles. If you honestly thought this would happen, then you are either bat-crap crazy or a stinking genius. I thought our opponent would end up being the Saints because I "knew" they would win, and I was pretty confident the Packers would beat the Eagles. Well, Matt Hasselbeck and Marshawn Lynch sure proved me wrong, even though I was secretly wishing it would turn out this way. I mean, seriously, who wouldn't want to face a team that finished 7-9 in the regular season by winning the worst division in football?
It sounds like I wasn't the only Bears fan pulling for the Packers on Sunday, either. Legions of die-hard, mustache-wearing, sausage-eating fans were actually hoping our mortal enemies from cheeseland would beat the Eagles. Why? Because Michael Vick scares us a helluva lot more than Matt Hasselbeck. And, I think Bears fans remember the debacle against the Seahawks earlier this season and we want revenge.
Seahawks vs. Bears Preview:
Seattle was able to do some things on offense against the Saints that they shouldn't be able to do against the Bears. Hasselbeck threw multiple touchdowns down field over defenders that were either beaten in man coverage or simply out of position. He will have a very hard time doing that against the Bears due to the Cover-Two. He still scares me with his guile and intelligence, two factors that helped them beat the Bears during the regular season. But, the Bears got very little pressure on him that game, and the offense couldn't sustain a drive to save their lives. Somehow I don't see those things happening in this game. Jeremy Bates will call a good game and try to keep the Bears off balance with draws, slants, dig routes, and go routes down the sidelines between the corner and safety (all weaknesses of the Cover-Two), but Peppers and company will get hits on the banged up Hasselbeck and rattle him. If he's knocked out of the game (a distinct possibility), it's over.
Lynch's run at the end of the Saints game was amazing and memorable, but I can't see the Seattle running game being much of a factor against a fired-up, 2nd-ranked rush defense playing at home in their first playoff game in four years. Urlacher and Briggs will attack the line of scrimmage, which will force Seattle into lots of third and longs. I think they'll probably check down to Lynch and Forsett quite a bit in the passing game, so the Bears tackling will need to be better this time than the last time they played Seattle.
When the Bears have the ball, they'll need to be balanced and mistake-free. Obviously the offensive line will need to play well and Martz will need to remember that Matt Forte is his best bet for getting the Bears to the NFC Championship game. But, most importantly, Cutler will need to play poised and remain calm, especially early in the game. This is his first NFL playoff game and, at times in his young career, he's played recklessly in big games. I hope Martz is smart enough to know that the Bears can win this game without exposing Cutler to low percentage passing plays, especially early on.
I expect the special teams under Dave Toub to continue to excel. Why wouldn't I? He's the best special teams coach in the league and, if the Bears make it to NFC Championship Game, I hope he gets the big raise he deserves.
It took a great third down throw from Rex Grossman (no, seriously) and a Robbie Gould field goal in overtime to beat the Seahawks last time these two teams met in the divisional round. I don't think this game is headed for overtime, but a team that isn't suppose to win that is lead by a motivational head coach is dangerous. Seattle could run all sorts of misdirection plays, fake punts, and flea-flickers. Why wouldn't they? They're playing on borrowed time. However, this quote (Sun-Times) from Matt Hasselbeck after Seattle's win on Saturday is likely posted in the Bears' locker room. ‘‘If we get to play Chicago, then I think there is a chance we could still host another game here in the playoffs.’’ Well, Matt, you got your wish. Be careful what you wish for.
Bears 24, Seahawks 13