Sunday’s game against the Seahawks is not a gimme, despite what Steve Rosenbloom ignorantly blogs on the Tribune’s site. There are no gimmes in the NFL playoffs. Yes the Bears are ten-point favorites at home in the Divisional Round but they were nine-point favorites at home to same team in the 2006 postseason – a game that ended with a Robbie Gould field goal in overtime. That 2006 ‘Hawks club does not resemble this group, with one exception: Matthew Hasselbeck. We all know the threat Ma Hass poses and has posed for years to the Chicago Bears defense, specifically since the installation of the Lovie Deuce. But there are five other players the Bears should spend this week concerning themselves with.
Sean Payton feared Leon Washington and was willing to give the Seahawks field position throughout the early parts of Saturday’s game to avoid kicking off to one of the better return men in the sport. He backtracked on the philosophy as the Saints lost grip on the game and Washington’s damage was minimal. The Bears are the best field position in the sport (as returners) but they have struggled terribly covering kicks. I don’t think they can all-out avoid LW but they sure can try.
Quick: Name the best performance by a wide receiver against the Bears all season. Answer: Mike Williams’ 10-for-123 was an unstoppable force at Soldier Field, catching every ball within his grasp and settling perfectly into the space underneath the safeties. Don’t expect the LoveRod to upset the apple-cart and deviate from the basics of the system. The onus on killing the rhythm between Matthew and Mike will be on the front four, who must get pressure and must make Hass pay for every completion.
The biggest difference between the Ravens and the Chiefs, and subsequently the Packers and the Eagles, was the ability to convert on big third downs. The tight end was a huge option for both those teams. Carlson was relatively invisible during the first meeting of these clubs but he is a big target that excels at exploiting the middle of the field – an area where the Bears defense has been perpetually susceptible to conceding big gains. Look for #54 to knock down a pass in a big spot.
I know Curry and Babineaux were the major pass-rushing threats for the ‘Hawks during the first meeting but I think you’ll see teams start to adopt what the Packers did Week 17, bringing defensive backs off the edge to confuse our over-matched tackles and disrupt Cutler’s timing. The Bears will need to shift into their hot route, quick releases to move the chains and keep defensive coordinator Casey Bradley from forcing Caleb Hanie to warm-up at halftime.
Lynch is one of my favorite tailbacks in the game and I wrote, when these two teams squared off a dozen weeks ago, he is also one of the most difficult backs to take down in the game. (The Saints learned that lesson the heard way.) Lynch isn’t like Adrian Peterson or Jamaal Charles or Chris Johnson. He isn’t going to bounce a nothing play outside and out-run your second and third levels. He’s going to bounce a nothing play outside, wait for your tacklers to approach him, and throw them to the ground. The back he resembles is the Jets Shonn Greene, who gained 70 yards on 12 carries only three weeks ago. The Bears need to gang tackle while keeping contain on the outside. Not the easiest thing to do.