Bears slaughter Seahawks, will play for NFC Title

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Bears slaughter Seahawks, will play for NFC Title

Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011
Posted: 3:26 PM Updated: 6:31 PM
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Now the Bears and Green Bay Packers can settle matters for this season in a game that really matters.

After watching the Packers annihilate the Atlanta Falcons, the Bears went out on a snow-flecked Soldier Field and did the same to the Seattle Seahawks in a 35-24 victory that sets up the NFLs two oldest rivals in the NFC Championship game next Sunday in Soldier Field at 2 p.m.

The Bears and Packers come into next Sundays game with a combined winning margin of 38 points in their divisional-round victories.

Bears-Green Bay. ... It just doesnt get any better than that, as I see it, coach Lovie Smith said.

Next Sunday will only be the second time the Bears and Packers will meet in a playoff game. The Bears crushed Green Bay 33-14 in a one-game tiebreaker game a week after Pearl Harbor.

Maybe Smith had an idea this might confront the Bears sometime, as he played his starters throughout in a season-ending 10-3 loss at Green Bay. Had the Bears defeated the Packers, Aaron Rodgers and his associates would have been watching this weekend instead of playing.

Fast start

Before a crowd of 60,010, the Bears built a 28-0 before Seattle kicked a 30-yard field goal late in the third quarter that appeared to be more an attempt to avoid the ignominy of a playoff shutout than anything else.

In his first-ever playoff game, quarterback Jay Cutler threw for touchdowns to tight ends Greg Olsen and Kellen Davis, ran for two of his own and handed to running back Chester Taylor for a short TD plunge in the first half.

The offense finished with 437 yards for the game, highest for the franchise in a playoff game in the Super Bowl era, with Cutlers 261 net passing yards also a high-water mark.

The Bears were 0-for-12 on third-down conversions in the first Seattle game. They converted 10 of 18 on Sunday.

Its up there among 2010 performances, Cutler said. But I dont think its our best game. I really dont. We missed some stuff.

The Seahawks crept a little closer on two touchdown passes from Matt Hasselbeck to Mike Williams in the fourth quarter. But Cutlers toss to Davis with less than 5 minutes remaining ended any serious whiff of a comeback.
Dominant performance

Simply put, the Bears (12-5) played like a division champion. They led 21-0 after less than 20 minutes were played, then they held that lead while limiting the Seahawks (8-10) to 96 total yards as the offense was piling up 238.

With a record of 42-8 under Smith when leading at halftime, this game was over. The points explosion in the first two quarters matched the Bears season high posted against the Philadelphia Eagles. The difference was that the Eagles score 13; the Seahawks were never close to the Chicago goal line and did not cross the Bears 40 in the first half when it still mattered.

The Bears controlled the ball 16 minutes of the first half and 21 in the second, holding Seattle to 111 total yards through three quarters.

Its easy to play defense when youre not playing, linebacker Brian Urlacher said.

Cutler made his first career playoff pass a memorable one. Behind flawless protection, Cutler launched a 58-yard touchdown throw to Olsen, who had outrun veteran safety Lawyer Milloy down the center of the field.

Olsen, whose career best for one game had been 94 yards, had 113 on three catches in the first half alone. He added a 33-yarder along the right sideline on the Bears second possession, a 50-yard drive that finished with a 1-yard burst over right tackle by Taylor for a touchdown.

The Bears lead ballooned to 21-0 when Cutler took matters, and the ball, into his own hands and picked his way six yards to give the Bears three straight touchdown possessions and a 21-0 lead with 10:05 remaining in the second quarter.

And Davis gave the Bears a second TD by their tight ends to close out the Chicago scoring before Seattles mini-rally.

Tight-end play was huge, Olsen said. Kellen comes back on that crucial play and catches that big touchdown to kind of ice the game. It just shows you, players whatever youre labeled or your position, if you can make big plays and make things happen for our offense, youre going to play.

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.

Bears defensive backs using off-field bonds to improve on-field ones

Bears defensive backs using off-field bonds to improve on-field ones

Every Thursday night, Bears defensive backs try to all get together at Tracy Porter’s house for dinner. But it’s not about the food.

"None of us can cook," said cornerback Bryce Callahan, laughing.

At the risk of channeling some inner Marc Trestman, it’s about the get-together itself, which always involves popping on some game film and doing extra study beyond the time at Halas Hall. And it’s also building something off the field that they believe they can take onto it.

One of the keys to excellence in any working group is the individuals connecting in ways that make the whole greater than just the sum of the parts. That’s the point ultimately, taking some personal connections onto the field and making the entire defensive backfield collectively better.

Relationships among players have never been recorded as intercepting or even deflecting an NFL pass.

"For me it starts off the field, getting to know one another, how that person is," said cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, familiar with a similar internal chemistry from his time with the New England Patriots.

"You get that feeling for every individual, and you take that on the field. It creates a close bond, and we’ve got that bond. We try to look through each other’s eyes, communicate what you were thinking and he was thinking on this play or that, and that’s the biggest thing."

Offensive lines are generally thought of as the group most benefited by camaraderie and closeness. They typically have an O-line dinner most weeks, with checks for the meal not uncommonly reaching into four-figures.

"Those boys can EAT," LeBlanc marveled. "We stick to wings or ribs."

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

But the secondary consists of four individuals rotating coverages the way a line moves with different protections or assignments. Double-teams in the defensive backfield require the same cohesion and familiarity as ones on the other side of the football.

The Bears have started the same base four defensive backs in all three games — Porter and Jacoby Glenn at the corners, Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey at the safeties — but the Bears are working in multiple rookies, and Callahan (hamstring) has been inactive along with Kyle Fuller, projected to be the starter at right corner but now on IR. Rookie safety Deon Bush was inactive the first two weeks, then played at Dallas. Rookie corner Deiondre’ Hall was pressed into action on defense for 18 plays at Houston and 28 against Philadelphia.

With the in-game mixes-and-matches necessitated by injuries, the familiarity among secondary members is looked at as nothing short of vital. Comments, right or wrong, from a friend can be taken better/more constructively than ones from a relative stranger.

"Just more of being ready to pick each other up, be ready," Amos said. "It just shows you how quick you can go from scout team to on the field, so everybody has to be talking together.

"The closer we are on and off the field, the better we are together."

LeBlanc agrees.

"We talk to each other like friends, in a unit, trying to dissect a play right after it happens, rewind and see how we can to it better.

"You can’t be out here trying to communicate and you don’t even really know the guy next to you."

Bears facing Lions with Jay Cutler likely out, Alshon Jeffery dealing with hamstring issue

Bears facing Lions with Jay Cutler likely out, Alshon Jeffery dealing with hamstring issue

The official injury designation is “doubtful” but Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is unofficially expected to be out of Sunday’s game with the Detroit Lions after not practicing on Thursday or Friday due to his injured right thumb.

“It is a pretty critical area on the quarterback, especially when it's your right thumb and you're a right handed quarterback,” Bears head coach John Fox said. “So you know we're going to get him healthy and that's our main objective and we'll see if he's any further along [Saturday].”

The designation — “questionable” — was brighter for wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, except for the mild surprise that he was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday with a knee issue and then was limited on Friday because of a hamstring.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Jeffery missed six games last season, two separate instances, because of hamstring problems.

Besides Cutler, running backs Ka’Deem Carey (hamstring) and Jeremy Langford (ankle), nose tackle Eddie Goldman (ankle) and linebacker Danny Trevathan (thumb) also did not practice and are listed as doubtful. Carey, Cutler, Goldman and Trevathan all were inactive in Dallas, and Langford suffered his ankle sprain against the Cowboys.

Limited but listed as questionable: guard Josh Sitton (shoulder), outside linebacker Willie Young (knee); and defensive backs Sherrick McManis (hamstring), Tracy Porter (knee) and Harold Jones-Quartey (concussion, cleared).