Earlier this season in week six, Seattle beat Chicago 23-20, and while I'm sure the Bears coaches will dissect that game film over and over, and over again, they know their team is in a much different place. A much better place. A place with offensive harmony and balance.
Seattle is in a different place as well. After playing in what was essentially a playoff game in week 17 to even qualify for the postseason, they took it to the defending champs last week in the opening round. Seattle will be riding sky high coming into Soldier Field.
The switch in offensive philosophy by the Bears will counteract any momentum the Seahawks may have. Seattle benefited by playing a Saints team that was forced into being one dimensional with the loss of their top two running threats. They'll have no such luck when facing the Bears, Matt Forte, and his 1,600 all purpose yards. The Bears will win this game.
I'll give Mike Martz the benefit of the doubt, and say he was still in the feeling out stages of his offense and still trying to get a handle on the best way to call plays for his team back in week six. Maybe his great realization was helped along by Mike Tice threatening him with bodily harm or Lovie Smith threatening him with the unemployment line, but whatever the reason the Bears offense after the bye week was much different.
This week the Seahawks will face a healthy and well rested Bears team. All Pro OLB Lance Briggs missed the week six game. Jay Cutler was playing in his first game back after sitting out with a concussion. Chris Williams was playing in his 1st game back and his 1st game at a new position (LG) after his hamstring injury. The right side of the offensive line featured Edwin Williams at RG making his 2nd start, and rookie J'Marcus Webb at RT making his 2nd start.
Since the bye week and Roberto Garza was inserted back at his old RG position, Chicago has rolled with the same o-line for nine straight games. That type of familiarity with each other has been a huge reason for their improved play. In week six the Seahawks racked up six sacks, with all but a half sack coming from defensive backs and linebackers. The Bears blitz recognition is much improved, and I don't foresee Seattle catching the Bears o-line off guard this time around.
In their last meeting the Bears only called 12 running plays, and Matt Forte had a career low 11 yards on eight carries. That ain't happening again. Look for Martz to commit to Forte early. Seattle can be ran on, and passed on for that matter as their defense ranks in the bottom half of the league, but it's the run game that allowed the Bears to go 7-2 after the bye week. Jay Cutler will still have his shots down field, but this is playoff football in Chicago, and there is no way Martz strays from a successful script.
Last time out the number of the day for Chicago was zero. As in zero sacks, zero takeaways, and zero third downs converted. Defensively, the Bears just couldn't do what they needed to do. Very little pressure on Matt Hasselbeck, and if you give a veteran QB time to throw, he'll pick apart even the best defense. His 25/40 for 242 yards was a season high and Mike Williams had a career best game at that point with 10 receptions for 123 yards. The Bears defense will get after Hasselbeck on Sunday.
And if you remember the Bears were in the middle of a horrific stretch in converting 3rd downs. After converting a respectable 6/14 in the opener, the Bears went 9/70 in their next 6 games, including the 0/12 against Seattle. There is no way this triple 0-fer happens again.
The Bears offense has been steadily improving all season, and I wouldn't put much stock into the offensive mess that was week 17. The Bears didn't make many, if any, offensive adjustments from the week 3 game plan, and Green Bay was playing some aggressive blitz happy defense because of that. Chicago basically used that game to get their young offensive players some experience playing in a hostile playoff type atmosphere. Luckily they emerged from the game unscathed.
With the extra week of preparation, Lovie and his coaching staff will have the team ready. Mike Martz will have just enough up his sleeves to keep Seattle off balance, and Rod Marinelli will continue disguising his coverages as he has all season long. The loss back in week six should be stinging just enough to prevent any players from looking past the sub .500 team, but Bears fans can sit back and enjoy the game... and enjoy a Bears victory.