Scouting report: Seahawks at Bears
Three keys to Seahawks victory 1 Apply pressure. Seattle did that successfully in the teams' first meeting, dispatching an array of defensive...
Three keys to Seahawks victory
1 Apply pressure. Seattle did that successfully in the teams' first meeting, dispatching an array of defensive backs on blitzes. Lawyer Milloy had two sacks, and Jordan Babineaux had one that resulted in a safety. The Seahawks finished with six sacks, their most in any regular-season game. They have increasingly relied on their two defensive ends to generate pass pressure, thinning the number of blitzes in the defensive game plan. One way or another, the Seahawks must try to apply pressure, since Jay Cutler has shown a propensity to make mistakes when things get chaotic in the pocket.
2 Let Cutler take the chances. Since coming to the Bears in 2009, Cutler has been intercepted 42 times in the regular season, more than any other NFL quarterback in that time. This is Cutler's first playoff game, and his struggles tend to come when the pocket begins to break down and his primary target is covered. Seattle has to force him to adjust, either to the oncoming pressure or its coverage schemes, because while Cutler's arm is among the strongest in the league, his mechanics have been criticized and his judgment can be a question mark.
3 Don't be afraid to punt, Pete Carroll. It's OK. It can even be beneficial. That was the case in the regular-season meeting with Chicago when Seattle punted 10 times, its most of any this season. While Devin Hester returned one of those punts for a touchdown, the Seahawks did everything they could to put more yards between the Bears and the end zone. That's a good strategy considering Chicago's offense ranked 30th in the league in yards gained this season. So when Carroll gets one of his hankerings to go for it on fourth down, he should opt for discretion over valor and punt.
Three keys to Bears victory
1 Stop Seattle's ground game cold. That shouldn't be much of a challenge considering Chicago had the second-best run defense during the regular season, while Seattle had the second-worst rushing offense. But the Seahawks have shown signs of life on the ground. Two weeks ago against St. Louis, Marshawn Lynch rushed for 76 yards in the second half of Seattle's victory. And in last week's playoff game against New Orleans, he became the first Seahawk to surpass 100 yards rushing in a game under Carroll.
2 Keep a good eye on Brandon Stokley. Mike Williams had a breakout game for the Seahawks against the Bears in October, catching 10 passes and establishing himself as a primary option. Expect the Bears to try and take Williams away. Their cover-two defense is built to give corners safety help on the two wideouts. That opens up the middle, creating all sorts of potential for an expert slot receiver like Stokley to find room to operate. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher is going to have his hands full when he drops into coverage.
3 Gain an advantage on special teams. Kicks will be a crucial element of Sunday's game. The Bears' Hester has returned three punts for touchdowns this season, and the Seahawks' Leon Washington has run back three kickoffs. The two teams ranked among the league's five worst in yards gained during the regular season, and whichever team seizes the special-teams advantage could wind up with a decisive edge in field position.
LT Russell Okung vs. DE Julius Peppers. They were a pair of premium acquisitions this offseason — Peppers signed by the Bears as an unrestricted free agent, Okung chosen by Seattle with the sixth overall pick in the draft. When they met earlier this season, Okung was making the second start of his NFL career, and he handled Peppers fairly well through the first half. The Bears defensive end didn't have a sack that first meeting, finishing with one solo tackle and an assist. Peppers has a reputation for being dominant when motivated, and there's no question that his performance in the first meeting was emphasized in the Bears' preparation this week. If Okung can handle Peppers again, it will be a big advantage for Seattle.
The Seahawks beat the Bears 23-20 in Chicago on Oct. 17. The Bears were the only playoff team Seattle beat during the regular season, and the victory marked Seattle's first win on the road against an opponent with a winning record in three years. Seattle played Chicago eight times in the Seahawks' first 30 years of existence. This will be the sixth meeting in the past five, including both the playoffs and regular season. The Bears have won three of the last five meetings, including a 27-24 overtime victory in a divisional playoff game on Jan. 14, 2007, at Chicago.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.