Seahawks expect better rushing attack from Bears
After Seattle won at Chicago on Oct. 17, the Bears reconfigured their offense.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Seattle Seahawks may not know everything that awaits them Sunday in Chicago.
But one thing they can predict is that they will get a different offensive game plan from the Bears than during Seattle's 23-20 win in Chicago on Oct. 17.
"They are a more balanced team now," said Seahawks safety Lawyer Milloy, recalling how the Bears rushed just 14 times in that game while throwing it 39 times.
After a loss the following week against Washington, the Bears then had a bye week, during which first-year coordinator Mike Martz reconfigured the offense to emphasize the run.
The Bears then rushed 27 or more times in five straight games — topping 30 three times — winning all five, a stretch that proved vital to Chicago's capturing the NFC North.
Over the past nine games, the Bears had essentially a 50-50 split running and passing — 258 rushing attempts to 251 throws.
"We are expecting that we are going to see a good dose of the run game," said Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
Martz made his name as the offensive coordinator and then head coach of the St. Louis Rams during the "Greatest Show on Turf" — powered by the arm of Kurt Warner and a dynamic passing attack.
But the Bears have for decades been a team known for defense and a running game, and as the season progressed Martz adjusted.
Bears coach Lovie Smith said Wednesday that better play up front — the line has solidified after some early struggles — has also helped.
"Seattle was able to get after us that day with six sacks against us and we couldn't really get a running game going," Smith said. "But our offensive line has improved a lot since then."
In fact, Chicago was two-thirds of the way through its offensive-line makeover during that first game, moving Chris Williams from left tackle to guard for the first time. That left Frank Omiyale at left tackle and rookie J'Marcus Webb slid in at right tackle.
"We've moved some guys around," quarterback Jay Cutler said Wednesday in a conference call with Seattle-area reporters. "Chris Williams is now playing guard. We've got a rookie out there at right tackle. We've pushed some stuff around a little bit, and the last six games, they've really jelled and played well."
The results weren't pretty in October as Chicago allowed six sacks to Seattle. But almost three months later, things look very different. While the Bears allowed six sacks in the regular-season finale to Green Bay, that was an aberration. The Bears gave up 27 sacks in the first six games and 29 over the past 10.
Cutler was asked if he has had more time in the pocket since the changes.
"Definitely the last three weeks," he said. "Those first couple of games, they were just kind of getting a feel for each other. Any time you put a rookie in there, it's going to take a little bit of time, but he has come along extremely well. Olin (Kreutz) is doing a great job of keeping everything organized up there, and they're playing well."
Many of Seattle's sacks came on blitzes, something the Seahawks have decreased a bit in recent weeks, playing a little more conservatively last week against the Saints.
"They blitzed us a lot that first game, and they've kind of toned down the blitz (lately)," said Cutler. "We don't know exactly what their game plan is going to be Sunday, but we've got to prepare for everything."
• Not only is it expected to be about a high of 20 degrees on Sunday in Chicago, but the game will be played on a Soldier Field turf that often lends itself to poor footing.
"It stinks for both of us, I know that much," Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said Wednesday. "It's not going to be good for both teams. They're both going to have to learn to adjust your footing, adjust your steps, whatever you got to do not to slip.
"That's just the way it is this late in the season at Soldier Field. Hopefully there hasn't been 10 playoff games for high school this week on it, but you never know."
• Linebacker Lofa Tatupu is not expected to participate in practice on Wednesday, but coach Pete Carroll indicated his middle linebacker is on track to return for Sunday's game.
Tatupu suffered a concussion in the second half of the playoff victory over New Orleans.
David Hawthorne — Seattle's starting weakside linebacker and leading tackler — replaced him in the middle of Seattle's defense, but Carroll hopes to have Tatupu back in place Sunday.
"He's going through the walk-throughs and stuff," Carroll said. "So far, his tests and everything have gone very well. It looks very favorable for Lofa to play in this game."
Reporter Danny O'Neil contributed to this report.
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