Pressuring Hasselbeck: Can the Bears do it?

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Pressuring Hasselbeck: Can the Bears do it?

Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011
4:45 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Two sequential commandments order the universe of just about every defense, including the Bears. The problem with the second one is that against the Seattle Seahawks, it may be next to impossible.

Commandment one is stop the run. Take away an option as well as yards and force opposing offenses to look at third-and-longish situations.

Then fulfill commandment two: Pressure the quarterback.

Easier said than done against Matt Hasselbeck, a 35-year-old veteran who went unsacked by the Bears in game one between the teams, one of three games. Nine of the 15 opponents Hasselbeck faced this season sacked him only once or not at all. Only four teams sacked him more than twice and the Seahawks went 2-2 in those games as it was.

Their offense is a quick game, said defensive end Julius Peppers. They rely on a lot of turn-in routes, quick stuff so weve got to do the best we can as far as getting to the quarterback. And if we cant get there, weve got to get our hands up in the lanes, bat passes down, that sort of thing.

Youre not going to get to him a lot but youre going to have places where they take chances deep, max-protect and play-action, and those are where you have the opportunities.

The Bears allowed third-down conversions at a rate of 35 percent, including 7 of the 18 opportunities by the Seahawks. Significantly, Hasselbeck and the Seahawks were 0-for-7 in third downs of 10 yards or longer but 6-for-9 when the situation was third-and-6 or shorter.

But...

Defensive linemen have characterized pass rush against a good West Coast quarterback as often little more than two steps and get your hands up.

When you go in against someone like Hasselbeck, you just play fundamentals, said defensive end Israel Idonije. You do have to stop the run first and then you make that team one-dimensional. That allows you to take over the game.

They do use a lot of short, quick stuff and youve got to have a plan as a defense to counteract that.

You have to force them into situations where they have to hold the ball longer and take shots down the field.

Hasselbeck comes with the lowest passer rating (73.2) of the eight quarterbacks still in the playoffs. Jay Cutler, at 86.3, ranks sixth among the eight, ahead of only Hasselbeck and New Yorks Mark Sanchez.

Curiously, though, Hasselbeck has a higher rating on third downs (76.9) than his overall (73.2). Cutler (75.1) is less efficient on third downs.

The Seahawks rank just 22nd in third-down conversions (the Bears rank 27th) while the Bears defense stands sixth in third-down efficiency allowing 33 percent conversions.

But Hasselbeck has been around playoffs since his early career days in Green Bay when Brett Favre was holding clinics. And he took the Seahawks to the playoffs every year from 2003-07, including the Super Bowl in 2005.

Hes a veteran, knows where to go with the football, does a lot of pump fakes to get you off your landmarks, and knows where to go with the football after that, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. "He doesnt make a lot of mistakes. Theyre protecting him well right now. I think the running game is helping. Anytime youve got a running game, its going help your quarterback. Theyre doing a good job right now.

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.

Brandon Marshall doesn't remember 3 TD game from Bears-49ers in 2014 because he was on pain pills

Brandon Marshall doesn't remember 3 TD game from Bears-49ers in 2014 because he was on pain pills

Remember back in 2014 when the Bears rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the 49ers 28-20 in San Francisco on Monday Night Football?

Well, Brandon Marshall doesn't.

And he had three of the four touchdown catches, two of them coming in the last quarter.

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The former Bears wide receiver, who had been dealing with a high ankle sprain, said he took pain pills before the game and doesn't recall much of it, including the incredible one-handed grab that went viral.

"I don't really remember much about that game because I worked really hard to get back from a high ankle (sprain)," Marshall said during a conference call Wednesday. "I'll say it, I took a couple pain pills that masked the pain. I really wasn't supposed to play. I came back from a high ankle (sprain) within 10 days. I was supposed to be out four to six weeks. I don't remember much from that game. I just remember catching those balls. And that was pretty much it."

If only Bears fans could forget that season entirely, which ended in a 5-11 record and the end of the Marc Trestman era.

Bears win over 49ers nets DE Akiem Hicks NFL defensive honor

Bears win over 49ers nets DE Akiem Hicks NFL defensive honor

It may have been just a distant similarity to players on an MLB cellar-dweller earning a Cy Young or MVP award (which happens in Chicago, a lot – Andre Dawson, Ernie Banks twice), but to the Bears it matters. Defensive end Akiem Hicks was named NFC defensive player of the week after his dominating performance in the Bears win last Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers, and he is not alone among Bears getting recognition after one of their few victories.

Never mind that the victory moved the Bears to 3-9 and came over a team losing its 11th straight game. What Hicks accomplished – two sacks, 10 tackles, a quarterback hit, a forced fumble – was being a force in the Bears’ domination of the 49ers and has been part of the emotional core of a team that has lost but not folded.

“It’s easy to say, ‘We’re not getting the results we want,’ but guys have invested,” Hicks said. “I’ve told guys, ‘just think about the hours you’ve invested, to get your body and mind ready for a 16-game season. Why would you put all that work in and then, when you don’t get the results you want, just quit?’"

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Jordan Howard is one of the nominees for the FedEx Air & Ground NFL player of the week. Howard, who posted his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the year, could be a double-winner: He also is among the nominees for Pepsi NFL rookie of the week, as is teammate Leonard Floyd (two sacks, safety, four tackles).

Voting on the latter two awards is still open.

Hicks’ play vs. San Francisco boosted him to a career-best six sacks, and he credited Bears coaches afterwards with giving him opportunities to rush the passer, not simply be utilized as a run-stopper. He has been everything and perhaps a little more than the Bears anticipated when they signed him this offseason to a two-year contract worth $10 million, with $5 million guaranteed.

“I think he's done well,” said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “It's a credit to him, a credit to Jay [Rodgers, defensive line coach]. Akiem has kept improving throughout the season, and he's been one of the guys that have been there each and every week, playing a lot of plays for us, and he's been a steady bell cow for us in there.”