It’s time to knock off the rhetoric and slap on the pads. It’s time for the Bears to play a meaningful game for the first time in a few weeks and join the playoff party. It’s also time for the Bear Goggles On staff to make their picks and predictions.
Welcome to the extended NFC Championship Pre-game Show, starring the Chicago Bears with special victim guest, the Seattle Seahawks. The undeserving Seahawks won their Super Bowl last week, knocking off the defending champs on their home turf to shock the world. Great for you guys, but it’s time to face reality.
Yes, it’s true, the Seahawks beat the Bears in Week 6, but the changes that the Bears offense has undergone since then have been well documented. The defense will not be caught off guard by hurry-up offenses or Mike freaking Williams and will shut Hasselbeck down. As much as the Seahawk fans want to ride their Week 6 win into the NFC Championship, the Bears played their worst offensive game of the season, played without Lance Briggs and with only a partially functioning Julius Peppers and with all of that, they only lost by 3.
My keys to the game:
Great shot kid! Don’t get cocky!
The Bears have been a pleasant surprise this season and it’s been great to be along for the ride. Bears fans have been making their NFC Championship plans since about the time Marshawn Lynch went “Beast Mode” against the Saints. I’m hoping the Bears haven’t fallen into that trap. By the time the Bears and Seahawks kick off on Sunday, they’ll know their opponent for the NFC title. If the Packers pull off the win, the Bears get to host the NFC Title game. You know what? So would the Seahawks. Think they’ve got any motivation to get back to Qwest Field? Learn from the mistake made by the Saints and don’t underestimate your opponent.
We Want the Ball and We’re Going to Score
Remember Matt Hasselbeck’s famous quote about 15 seconds before he threw a season ending pick-6 against the Packers a few years ago? If case you forgot, here’s a clip:
This bit of advice goes out to Jay Cutler above all else. Take care of that football and your team wins. Plain. Simple. On the flipside, the Bears defense didn’t have any takeaways in the regular season matchup. That can’t happen again. I’m looking for a couple of picks and three sacks.
Expect the Unexpected
The Seahawks have nothing to lose. Don’t think that sentiment isn’t playing on repeat in their locker room. They have nothing to lose and that makes them very dangerous.
Bears 27 – Seahawks 13
I was fortunate enough to attend, in person, Seattle’s momentous, upset victory over the World Champion Saints. Taking nothing away from Seattle and their fans who were AWESOME during the game, the Saints clearly took the Seahawks for granted and had a lot of questionable coaching decisions.
For example, the Saints went for a 4th and 1 on their own side of the 50 when clearly punting the ball was the best option. The Saints were also without their starting safety, Malcolm Jenkins forcing the aging Darren Sharper into extended duty and he definitely showed his age. In addition to Sharper, I am not sure if many of the Saints players even got off the team plane at SeaTac. The defense as a whole had trouble getting any pressure on Seattle QB, Matt Hasselbeck and if you give a 12 year veteran QB time in the pocket, he will find a way to hurt you and that’s exactly what happened.
In particular, the Seahawks consistently ran a WR screen play that they used to set up other plays. For example, they would run a WR screen to the outside WR and get whatever they got. Then they would run the same formation, fake the WR screen and throw over the top to the slot WR on the same side. They got a lot of big plays from this, including a long TD to Brandon Stokley. The Bears secondary needs to be aware of this and stay home so as not to get burned by this.
The Seahawks spent a lot of energy, emotionally and physically, on the game versus the Saints and fortunately, the Seattle fans, or the 12th Man, as they call it, will be about 2,000 miles away, so on paper the Bears should have a big advantage. Vegas agrees installing the Bears as a 10 point favorite.
The keys for the Bears are:
- Get pressure on Hasselbeck with the front four. If you keep him on his heels, he will likely throw the ball to a Bears defender at least once or twice.
- Early in the game the Bears need to RUN, SCREEN, RUN, SCREEN, repeat. Seattle plays a lot of soft zones and their front four and LBs are very aggressive. If the Bears can hit them with some quick counter plays by pulling the weakside guards, they will be able to rip off some huge chunks of yards. This along with well-timed screen plays and the Bears could manage to make the game very easy for Jay Cutler and get him in a rhythm early. Once Seattle begins to respect the run and the threat of the screen, Jay can pick apart their undersized and inexperienced secondary.
- Flip the field. We have the best returner in the history of the game and the Bears need to use him. Devin Hester should be returning kickoffs and punts. Seattle’s punter, Jon Ryan, got off some abysmal kicks against the Saints in relatively good weather. If the Chicago forecast holds for Sunday, Devin should get some good chances for big returns.
Bears 24 – Seahawks 10
The Bears are healthy and hungry for redemption for their rematch with the Seahawks. They have worked out most of their kinks and are a playoff ready team. Matt Forte is going to be the key to the Bears’ offense showing that they aren’t as bad as people think they are. Cutler knows what is at stake and wants to show the NFL that he is an elite quarterback.
The defense was without Briggs the first time that these two teams met and you know that he will be a big difference maker. Special Teams is going to be the exclamation point. Hester returned a punt for a TD, and Manning had a kickoff return TD called back. You can expect more of the same this week. I predict Forte will have 25 carries for over 100 yards, Cutler will make a few mistakes but still have a good game and Hester will give the Bears good field position all day since Carroll claims that he will kick to him.
Look for an all around strong performance as the fans will be going crazy in the freezing temperatures at Soldier Field.
Bears 34 – Seahawks 17
The Bears’ Bend-Don’t-Break Defense allows Seattle to pick up chunks of yardage on certain drives leading to 3 field goals, but Seattle is only able to punch it in once. The one time that Seattle scores a TD is more a result of an offensive turnover in Seattle territory, and the Defense can’t be perfect.
However, the rest of the game is as entertaining as when the Bears played the Jets. A well-balanced approach leads to 2 Forte TD’s and 2 TD passes for Jay. Special Teams once again play a pivotal role giving the Bears offense terrific field advantage throughout the whole game. Bears face Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field in what turns out to be one of the most meaningful games in Bear History.
Bears 34 – Seahawks 16
My question for this game is: Can Jay Cutler and Mike Martz trust the rest of their team enough to let field goals win this game. This is NOT going to be a blowout. In fact, that type of talk may be the reason the Bears lose. (That and the crappy Soldier Field sod!). The Seahawks are going to blitz relentlessly and put 8 guys in the box. Can the Bears handle that pressure? What I mean is: can they handle that pressure when it’s 3rd and long and they’re on the 37 or 38 yard line? Can Jay stop himself from forcing the ball into triple coverage in the endzone allowing an interception? Or can Mike Martz be an adult and keep Jay away from that temptation?
Can he please NOT call a 7-step drop against an obvious passing situation and get a sack to move themselves out of field goal range. IF (and that is a big IF)… If Martz can call a smarter game and trust the rest of his team, the Bears will win. If not, well… the more opportunities we give the Seahawks to build momentum, the more confidence we give them, the less our chances of winning.
Bears 26 – Seahawks 24