In what is almost certain to be the most important game since the last time the Seahawks played a Divisional Round playoff game (strangely enough, in Chicago), the Seahawks have got to be feeling pretty amped. A win today brings the Packers into Seattle to face the 12th Man and a team with renewed belief in themselves... but first: they've got to get past the Bears.
People have been strangely discounting the Bears. They were a very lucky team in 2010, yes, but after a rough go of things with the Seahawks and Redskins, the Bears had their bye, got healthy, and changed their entire game plan. The offensive focus shifted away from Cutler and towards Matt Forte and the running game -- they only lost one game the rest of the year.
But this is a winnable game. Here's my recipe on how to do it:
- Contain Forte. Well gee, that sounds easy enough. It's not. Matt Forte is quietly one of the most dynamic offensive players in the NFL. If he can't run the ball, they'll give him a swing pass. If that's not working, they'll find him in the screen game. No luck there? He can line up as a WR. You see what I'm saying. The Seahawks must have a plan to stop Forte. Perhaps the most important thing they can do to achieve this is...
- Get ahead early. You've got to find a reason for Cutler to take the game over. If you lose to Cutler, fine, that's honorable enough, but it's also not particularly likely. Cutler has all the talent in the world but very little of the composure. Something is missing upstairs. If we can get him flustered and make him and Martz feel that they need to strike quickly against the weakish Seahawks secondary, we can exploit his willingness to throw the ball at any defender on the planet.
- Rise and grind. It's early. It's 10 am. There's nothing wrong with winning ugly, and there's no shame in playing the field position game to some degree. We need to grind out a win on the backs of Beast Mode and J-Force One. The Bears have a good defense, especially when it comes to stopping the run, but a sustained effort to run run run is going to wear that defense out, and you never know what a renewed Beast Mode can do.
- Contain Julius Peppers. This is going to be much more difficult than it was earlier in the year. Russell Okung is playing on two bum ankles (but playing very well, regardless), and we are down two tight ends. This is likely to be Okung's "Prove It" game. Let's hope he can.
- Cameron Morrah. Whaaat? The guy that a lot of people forgot was even on the team as recently as four weeks ago could end up being a key factor today. The Bears play a lot (a lot!) of Cover 2. While effective with the right personnel (which they have), a heady tight end can find the holes in the zones and really do a lot of damage. Great, so where's Carlson? Well, unfortunately, he's probably right next to Okung chipping away at Peppers for a majority of the game. Time for the second year Golden Bear to step up and be heard.
- We all we got. WE ALL WE NEED!
- [EDIT -- Forgot this one] Ben Obomanu! As important as Mike Williams feels to this game, I don't necessarily expect him to have a monster game. The Bears are good against a team's #1 WR and have already stated that they are game planning against Williams. They are, however, 26th in the league at stopping the #2 WR, which is why Obomanu has a great chance to earn that new contract all over again this morning.