Bears-Seahawks is all about control season still in Bears own hands
Lovie Smith likes to break the season into a series of four-game sprints, and the Bears will finish their third of those on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. From here starts a fourth quarter with three of the final four against, in order, Minnesota, Green Bay and Detroit, with the Arizona Cardinals between the Packers and Lions.
Where this becomes a problem on Sunday is if the Bears have been thinking about being within a win or two of clinching a playoff berth, and possibly the NFC North, depending upon what happens Sunday between the Packers and Vikings.
No Lovie Smith team has won its final four games, which means getting to 9-3 becomes significant for staying on the heels of San Francisco (8-2-1) for a chance at the No. 2 seed. A Bears' win and 49ers' loss at St. Louis Sunday would slide the Bears a half-game ahead of the team that crushed them less than two weeks ago.
Were in first place right now and we control what happens to the Bears, Smith said. And thats what its all about.
Seattle has won just once on the road this season. But Seattle also has not lost in Soldier Field in the regular season since 2006, the Bears Super Bowl season. The Bears have beaten the Seahawks twice in divisional-round playoff games, but Seattle put 24 points on the Bears in both the 2006 and 2010 games.
The 2011 loss marked only the 10th time in the Lovie Smith era that the Bears lost a game when leading at halftime (14-7).
And that stung.
"It still does, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. They beat us bad last year They beat us up up front. They came in here, late December, in our weather and put it on us pretty good.
Theyve beaten us the last two times in the regular season when they played here. They beat us the year we went to the playoffs, then we beat them in the playoffs. But they beat us in the regular season two in a row here.
Seattle has been a conundrum this season, defeating the likes of Green Bay, New England and Minnesota, while losing to Arizona, Detroit and Miami. The tipping point, as in real estate, has been location-location-location. The Seahawks are 5-0 at home and 1-5 on the road.
Indeed, Seattle has beaten more teams with winning records (three) than the Bears (two). And the Seahawks had possession for a potential tying final drive against the 49ers in San Francisco, a situation markedly different from the Bears on their trip there.
A fatal flaw has been failure to stop the run, giving up 175 or more yards in three of the last five game. Seattle defeated the Vikings despite giving up 242 rushing yards but the Miami Dolphins, ranking 20th in yards per attempt, averaged six yards per carry in their win over the Seahawks.
An underused core element of the Bears offense has been Matt Forte, who left the Minnesota game with an ankle injury but is expected to start against Seattle. With the offense running through Forte in 2010-11 the Bears had an identity, something that has not taken firm root even at this late part of 2012.
Its difficult right now to try to get involved in the passing game when youre trying to establish the run so much, Forte said. I think it all will come along.
Curiously perhaps, maybe the key to the balanced offense isnt as much Fortes running as Michael Bushs, or at least a hefty distribution of carries for Bush. The Bears are 5-1 when Bush has 10 or more carries.
Use of running backs has been a problem for the Seattle defense beyond just the running part. In San Franciscos win, for example, Frank Gore rushed for 131 yards and caught six passes for another 51, in addition to backup Kendall Houstons 62 yards on 13 combined touches.
The Bears are expected to maintain the commitment to the run that worked so well against Minnesota, particularly because of the help it gives an offensive line still settling in after a spate of changes.
It does because they can come off the ball and instead of pass-blocking, Forte said. You can come off the ball and not have to worry about people blitzing or where theyre coming from.
In case you missed, my in-game tweets (@csnmoonmullin) and commentary will be part of our whole Bears Pulse package this and every Sunday. See you on CSNChicago.com.