Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011
By John Mullin
If the Philadelphia Eagles get past the Green Bay Packers, the Bears will have to deal with Michael Vick and that Eagles offense for a second time since Thanksgiving. Until that happens, and I dont think it will, lets think Seahawks:
The Bears had beaten Seattle three of the last four times the teams met before this seasons stumblefest in Soldier Field.
Victories are usually turning points in seasons but the Seattle game was one of the turning points in the Bears season because that and the Washington game that followed forced Mike Martz and Jay Cutler to make changes in the planning and the execution of the offense, respectively.
Against a Seahawks team that was in the bottom third of the NFL in rushing yards allowed, Martz called exactly 12 running plays combined for Matt Forte and Chester Taylor. Less than two weeks after Cutler was given a concussion by the New York Giants, Martz called 45 pass plays. Cutler was sacked six times and completed less than half of his throws.
That debacle was followed by Cutlers 4-interception performance against Washington, a game in which he also was sacked four times. In the off week, high-level discussions resulted in a dramatic shift in the balance of the offense and the season, along probably with a lot of jobs beginning with Lovie Smiths, was saved.
Seattle ran the ball 31 times for 111 yards and a modest 3.6 yards per carry. The Bears averaged 4.4 per rush, yet Martz called on Forte and Taylor just those 14 times. Matt Hasselbeck and Cutler each threw for yardage in the 240s but Cutler was sacked those six times and Hasselbeck went un-sacked.
Thats how you lose to a team with a new head coach and a roster with 200-some changes since the end of last season. If it does end up being the Seahawks at the end of Sunday for the Bears in their division-round game, Bears will advance to the NFC Championship game for the second time under Smith.
If the Seattle Seahawks did nothing else, they disabused the myth of the New Orleans Saints. Well, maybe not entirely a myth, because myths do not win Super Bowls.
But the question was raised to me on repeated occasions last week as to what team represented the most acute threat to the Bears. The one I saw as the least dangerous, from among Seattle, New Orleans, Green Bay and Philadelphia, was New Orleans. The reason wasnt any sort of clairvoyance; if I had that, Id be writing this from aboard the S.S. Moon from somewhere south of, oh, maybe the Southern Cross.
No, so much of the NFL is about matchups. The Bears as constructed by Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith put down the Saints annually from 2005-08, four straight wins and the last three of which were in Soldier Field, which is where this years game would have been played.
The Seahawks did to the Saints about what I thought the Bears would have.
The Bears defense is looking even better as the Green Bay Packers roll out to a 14-0 lead on Philadelphia. Thats the same Packers offense that was kept in check, in Green Bay, by the Bears, held to 10 points in a true must game for Aaron Rodgers and an offense that was averaging 25 ppg.
Keys to the Game
If the weekly keys to the game from coaches like Lovie Smith sound repetitive, its because they are, and should be. Turnovers. Giveaways. Takeaways. And they come in different forms.
Green Bay handed away a touchdown with the dropped ball by James Jones late in the first half and then handed Philadelphia a re-admit ticket to the game with Aaron Rodgers fumble early in the third quarter that the Eagles turned into a touchdown.
The fumble was forced. The muffed TD was not.
I'll check in Monday about 6:05 a.m. with long-time pals at WGN-AM 720 and see what we think about the way this divisional round will set up....
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.