GameScout: Seahawks at Bears

GameScout: Seahawks at Bears

Seattle has lost three of its top four corners to injury. But that is not all. Eleven players on the 53-man roster have been added since the second week of the regular season. Every team has injuries, of course, but this season has been worse than most for the Seahawks. The team has made 17 transactions in the last five weeks, not counting players signed to future contracts.

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Seattle Seahawks (10-7) at Chicago Bears (13-3)
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GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF:
Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 1/14/07
SURFACE: Grass
TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
SERIES: 10th meeting. Seattle leads, 6-3. The Bears pounded Seattle, 37-6, in an Oct. 1 meeting at Soldier Field. On Sept. 19, 1999, Glenn Foley's 49-yard scoring pass to Fabien Bownes helped Seattle earn a 14-13 victory in the most recent Seattle victory at Soldier Field.
2006 RANKINGS: Seahawks: offense 19th (14th rush, 20th pass); defense 19th (22nd rush, 16th pass). Bears: offense 15th (15th rush, 14th pass); defense 5th (6th rush, 11th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Which Rex Grossman comes out of the tunnel? If the Bears get a steady, mistake-free game from their sporadic quarterback, Chicago should be able to roll against the Seahawks' injury-riddled defense. Seattle is still minus three of its top four corners, and will be vulnerable against RBs Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson with the safeties and even linebackers forced to help out more in pass defense. Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck has played in rough weather several times this season, so the forecast of high 20s with freezing rain and wind shouldn't phase him. But Seattle does need better decision-making and accuracy out of Hasselbeck. He has a shaky offensive line and a nicked-up receiving corps, so the Seahawks hope RB Shaun Alexander can provide some help by attacking a Bears run defense minus injured DT Tommie Harris.

FAST FACTS

Seahawks:
Coach Mike Holmgren's 12 postseason victories is tied for fifth-most all-time. ... WR Deion Branch needs a 100-yard receiving game to tie John Stallworth and Andre Reed, both in the Hall of Fame, for the third most all-time in the postseason with five.

Bears: Team's nine NFL titles are the most of any team in this year's playoffs. ... Lovie Smith is the first Bears coach to win consecutive division titles since Mike Ditka.

PERSONNEL NEWS:

Seahawks


--WR Darrell Jackson (toe) missed practice again Thursday. His status for Saturday is a game-time decision.

--WR D.J. Hackett (ankle) missed practice again Thursday. His probably will not play Sunday.

--RG Chris Gray (thigh) continues to share time at guard with Floyd Womack in practice. Gray is the starter, but Seattle wants to have both ready to play in case of injury.

--OL Floyd Womack (groin) continues to share time at guard with Chris Gray in practice. Gray is the starter, but Seattle wants to have both ready to play in case of injury.

--CB Marcus Trufant (ankle) missed practice again Thursday. He will not play Saturday.

Bears

--WR Bernard Berrian had three catches for 108 yards, including a 40-yard TD, in the regular-season meeting vs. the Seahawks.

--RB Thomas Jones had 98 yards on 24 carries with touchdowns of three yards and one yard vs. the Seahawks in Week Four.

--QB Rex Grossman completed 17 of 31 passes for 232 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 100.5 against Seattle in Week Four.

--CB Ricky Manning Jr. had two interceptions vs. Seattle on Oct. 1, 2006.

--DE Mark Anderson, a fifth-round rookie, had two sacks vs. Seahawks OLT Walter Jones in Week Four.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

Seahawks


Seattle has lost three of its top four corners to injury. But that is not all. Eleven players on the 53-man roster have been added since the second week of the regular season. Every team has injuries, of course, but this season has been worse than most for the Seahawks. The team has made 17 transactions in the last five weeks, not counting players signed to future contracts.

As a result, coach Mike Holmgren doesn't want to hear about the season being a failure if Seattle fails to reach another Super Bowl.

"I am not unhappy with where we are right now," Holmgren said. "In fact, I'm very happy. We're down to the last four teams in the NFC, last eight teams in the NFL." The Seahawks are heavy underdogs at Chicago in an NFC divisional playoff game Sunday.

"I'm not going to write off this season because we didn't get to the Super Bowl and all that kind of stuff," Holmgren said. "These guys have worked too hard. Take Bobby Engram. He has a serious thing (thyroid condition), misses all those games, it would have been easy for him just to ride it out.

"But he came back, he wanted to come back, he is so excited about playing in this game and there are a lot of players like that. And that, to me, kept my spirits up during the season and this is a good group. I like this team."

Engram caught four passes for 88 yards, including receptions of 36 and 30 yards, during a 21-20 victory over Dallas in the wild-card round. He thinks people shouldn't automatically write off the Seahawks just because the Bears pounded Seattle, 37-6, when the teams met at Soldier Field on Oct. 1.

"It's just a different time of year, it's a different team," Engram said. "That's my focus. Give them credit for what they did the first time. Don't take anything away from them.

"But I like the way we battled, I like the way we positioned ourselves to be in this so nobody is talking about us. We're going to continue to fight, get a little better this week and just play hard, see what happens."

Bears:

In the area of playoff experience, the Seahawks will have an indisputable edge over the Bears on Sunday. The defending NFC champions are in the postseason for the fourth consecutive season, while most of the Bears can only draw experience from last season's divisional-round loss to the Panthers. Only five players on the Bears' current roster - center Olin Kreutz, linebacker Brian Urlacher, defensive tackle Alfonso Boone, punter Brad Maynard and long snapper Pat Mannelly -- were with the 2001 team that also lost its playoff opener. Ten other Bears have postseason experience with other teams.

According to the Bears, it's debatable how much of a factor playoff experience is.

"Hopefully it's not a lot," said Bears wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad, who played in six playoff games in nine years with the Panthers before joining the Bears in 2005. "Actually most of this team has experienced the postseason last year, and hopefully they learned something from what happened last year."

The 29-21 upset loss to the Panthers last season, at home, after a bye week, taught the Bears plenty. It's incomprehensible that they could overlook the Seahawks, despite having dismantled them 37-6 in Week Four of the regular season. They dispatched the Panthers 13-3 in Week 11 last season and may have entered the rematch overconfident before getting their comeuppance in the postseason.
Last season the Seahawks got all the way to the Super Bowl, but linebacker Brian Urlacher doesn't think that gives them any advantage over the Bears -- this season.

"(That was) last year," Urlacher said. "I don't know (if there's an advantage) to tell you the truth. I know they won last week and we were off, I guess they have that advantage on us. They played last week and we didn't. But last year is over."

Quarterback Rex Grossman, who missed the first 14 games last season with a fractured ankle, came out a little too hyped up vs. the Panthers and completed just 8 of 20 passes in the first half for 64 yards as the Bears fell behind 16-7.

That experience, plus 16 starts during the regular season should make for a more worldly quarterback.

"I think (you learn) how to handle the emotions of being in such a crucial game and how to handle your excitement," Grossman said. "That's what I'm getting out of it, plus just general experience. Anytime you do something once, the second time should be better. I think our whole team has a much better approach this week."

The Bears cannot match the quantity of the Seahawks' playoff experience, but coach Lovie Smith, who went to the postseason as an assistant coach twice in three years with the Rams and three times in five seasons with the Bucs, sees a much different team now than he did a year ago.

"We look like a team that's been through it before and knows what to expect this weekend," he said. "I thought we prepared well last year, but the second time around, normally you handle things a lot better. I just know right now, the focus again has been great, and the intensity out at practice."

Twelve-year veteran guard Ruben Brown went to the playoffs three times in nine years with the Bills. He thinks last year's abbreviated postseason provided enough experience, especially for a team that returned 35 players who started at least one game during the 2005 regular season.

"All I can say is I feel that we learned our lesson," Brown said. "I don't know what it was, I don't know if it was overconfidence or inexperience or anything like that, but we have an experience from last year that we can build on, so we hopefully use it to our advantage."

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