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-49ers: And the winner is?

Bears-49ers: And the winner is?

Both teams are on track to be drafting in the top five, and the inevitable “the loser is the winner” talk has made its rounds, meaning that a defeat moves the loser higher in the draft order. The reality is that neither team will tank the game for draft position.

But the chances of two woeful teams playing well are slim. The 49ers won in Week 1 and then have lost 10 straight. The Bears are trying to avoid losing four straight for the first time under John Fox.

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Quarterback Colin Kaepernick burst upon the NFL scene in 2012 with a blowout of the Bears in his first start. He has regained his starting job in San Francisco and is still one of the prototypical mobile quarterbacks.

But the 49ers are the NFL’s worst defense in both points and yardage allowed, and they are the worst rushing defense in the league. Expect the Bears to try exploiting that and give quarterback Matt Barkley a balanced run-pass game plan.

Prediction: Bears 24, 49ers 20

Bears hoping to get Kyle Fuller back in DB mix sooner rather than later

Bears hoping to get Kyle Fuller back in DB mix sooner rather than later

Kyle Fuller was one of the seeming fixtures in the Bears’ defense as it transitioned from the 4-3 of old to the 3-4 of Vic Fangio. And he may be again, the Bears hope very soon, as he has begun practicing after months on injured reserve following knee surgery in August.

The Bears could place Fuller on the active roster as late as Saturday after he practiced all three days this week. “He made it three days in practice, no setbacks,” said coach John Fox. “He seems to be adapting pretty well. He has another practice [Saturday] and we don’t have to make a decision until 3 p.m. because of where he is on the roster. We’ll evaluate that after tomorrow.”

Were Fuller to return — restoring one projected 2016 starter to a defense that has been forced to field five different starting secondaries in the span of 11 games — he may be phased back in with a managed number of snaps, as other certain other players returning from injury have been.

But getting Fuller back projects to be an instant upgrade for a defensive backfield among the NFL’s worst at producing takeaways.

“We all play different positions so we’re kind of used to it, people moving in and out over the year,” said Bryce Callahan, who was initially ticketed for nickel duty as the No. 3 cornerback this season but has been pressed into service starting at cornerback in four games.

“It’s always good to get someone like Kyle back.”

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The Bears would need to weigh what workload Fuller could handle vs. roster needs based on only having 46 players active on game day.

“You’re always a little bit cautious because it does affect your roster,” Fox said. “But if you feel like he makes you better, that’s a move you make. Now we’re just working through him medically, durability-wise, and how much he can play.”

Jay Cutler (shoulder) was officially declared out and is headed for surgery on Saturday, ultimately to injured reserve.

Other availability questions include receiver Eddie Royal (toe), guard Josh Sitton (ankle) and safety Adrian Amos (ankle), all questionable. Linebacker Willie Young (knee) did not practice but linebacker Leonard Floyd was able to practice on a limited basis although his status in the concussion protocol will not be known until closer to game time.