Divisional Playoff: Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears
There’s a very intriguing development at play in this weekend’s Seattle-Chicago game at Soldier Field. If we’re to believe that the Seahawks are a legit contender — and after Saturday’s stunning upset of the defending Super Bowl champion Saints, we kind of have to — we have to believe that they’ll be well prepared for Chicago.
Seahawks safety Lawyer Milloy said the fact that Seattle already had played New Orleans earlier this season helped in their preparation in playing the Saints, and should serve them well again this week as they take on Chicago for a second time. And based on what they did against New Orleans, it seemed the Seahawks learned a lot of things from the regular-season matchup. Rather than settling for field goals on scoring drives, the ‘Hawks got aggressive and took shots at the end zone. Matt Hasselbeck connected on TD passes of 45 and 38 yards.
Now, attention turns to Chicago. In the regular-season matchup (which Seattle won 23-20) there were plenty of things the Hawks did well. They ran the ball effectively, with Justin Forsett and Marshawn Lynch combining for 27 carries, 111 yards and two TDs. Matt Hasselbeck was protected and kept care of the football — he wasn’t sacked a single time and didn’t throw any interceptions while posting a 87.7 QB rating.
So, what needs to change the second time around? It’s pretty obvious that Chicago will want to run the ball more. In the first meeting, Matt Forte managed just 11 yards on eight carries — both season lows — but those numbers are seemingly things of the past. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz used Forte a ton down the stretch, and the third-year pro responded. There was a 14-carry, 117-yard effort in a win over Philly; a 19-carry, 113-yard performance in a win over the Jets and back-to-back 90-plus yard days against Minnesota (a win) and Green Bay (a loss) to close out the season.
That said, expect Seattle to focus more on run-stopping. They did a nice job of shutting down the Saints last week — Julius Jones and Reggie Bush combined for just 71 yards — but the Saints didn’t spent a lot of time running it and focused on a more pass-oriented attack. This game will be played at Soldier Field, in the cold, on a day where Chicago will want to play meat-and-potatoes football: Run the ball, control the clock, dominate the line of scrimmage. If Seattle can’t figure out some defensive schemes to make that happen, there won’t be a repeat performance from Week 6. If anything, it’ll be Chicago that’s the team who made adjustments based on what transpired during the regular season.