Good morning. We’ve got clear skies and temperatures expected to be around 40 degrees at game time, so weather should not be a factor in today’s game.
Here’s five keys for the Seattle Seahawks as they try to stay in the playoff hunt, taking on the Chicago Bears at Soldiers Field.
Bottle up Barber: The Seahawks continue to play stout against the run, holding teams to 104.3 yards a contest, 11th overall in the league. But Chicago running back Marion Barber ran for 108 yards against Denver last week. And the Bears want to lean on the running game to protect backup quarterback Caleb Hanie. So the Seahawks have to stop the run in order to control the tempo of the game defensively.
Pressure Hanie: Once Seattle stops the run, the Seahawks need to pressure Hanie and force him into some bad decisions, particularly on third down. If the Seahawks can get Chicago into third and short and third and medium situations, they have a good chance to get off the field.
Score early: The Bears have had to deal with a slew of off-field issues this week, including the arrest of former teammate Sam Hurd on drug trafficking charges, the fallout from Marion Barber’s mistakes at the end of the Denver game that cost them a win, and the injuries to Jay Cutler and Matt Forte. So this team could be ready to fold if they have to deal with some adversity early in the game. Seattle needs to put some points on the board early and put pressure on the Bears to respond.
Contain Hester: Devin Hester is one of the best in the business, and Seattle punter Jon Ryan found that out the hard way in the team’s regular-season contest last year, getting de-cleated on a long Hester punt return for a score at the end of the game. I think Ryan has learned his lesson and will keep the ball out of bounds. It’s important in Seattle’s battle to control field position that they don’t let Hester get loose.
Play a clean game: The Seahawks have to avoid turning the ball over, costly penalties and unforced errors if they are going to win on the road. Today will be another chance to see how much this young team has matured at the end of the season.
Here’s my advance for today’s game. One of the keys for Seattle will be stopping Chicago defensive end Julius Peppers. Here’s what Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell had to say about that arduous task: “Number one is being able to do what we want to do and that’s run the ball. I think that takes a lot of pressure off of what we would do before where you just drop back all the time and you put a lot of pressure on the offensive line. So we need to be able to run the ball and be smart with the schemes of protections that we’re asking our offensive line to do.”
Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com discusses the important of containing explosive Chicago kick returner Devin Hester.
ESPN’s Mike Sando gives us five observations from the Seattle-St. Louis game last week. Sando said Paul McQuistan was solid at left tackle, and Golden Tate continues to improve.
Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times gives us some keys to the game here.
Christian Caple of Seattlepi.com gives us five things to watch.
Matt Bowen writing for the Chicago Tribune says that the Seahawks will attack the Bears vertically against their Cover 2 scheme.
Michael Wright of ESPN Chicago breaks down the game.