By Jeff Joniak-
(WBBM) Here are Jeff Joniak’s “Keys to the Game” for the Bears as they take on the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at Soldier Field:
Mike Tice’s script against Minnesota called for moving Jay Cutler in and around the pocket, coupled with 36 handoffs and a clock-killing script that allowed the Bears to secure the tempo and rhythm of the game. A similar script to help the offensive line will be necessary against a feisty and physical Seattle defense that is giving up 4.6 yards per carry. However, that unit is more dominant at home than it is on the road. Opposing quarterbacks have a 69.2 quarterback rating at Qwest field, but 81.2 in their home games. The Seahawks have allowed only three passing touchdowns at home and have 17 sacks versus seven passing touchdowns and 12 sacks on the road. The Seahawks have also recorded 21 of their 30 sacks in wins, limiting completion percentages to 56% and a quarterback rating of 67.5.
Defense: Tame The Beast
In the last month the Bears defense has been asked to stop CJ2K of Tennessee, Arian Foster of Houston, Frank the Tank Gore of San Francisco, All-Day Adrian Peterson of Minnesota, and now prepare for “Beast Mode” and Mr. Skittles Marshawn Lynch of Seattle. He’s another tackling challenge, given his extraordinary balance and power. He requires multiple tacklers who finish because he’s never down until the whistle blows. The Bears have defended him twice, holding him to 2.9 yards/carry, but with minimal touches. Miami’s solid run defense held Lynch to 2.4 yards/carry last week. Bears safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright earned high grades for their performances individually in containing Peterson last week and will be counted on again to keep Lynch from ripping off big chunks. Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson is the surprise of the NFL, earning high marks for his efficiency and athleticism. The Bears do not want him getting to the edge, they’d like to keep him in the pocket and get their hands up when he drops to throw. He’s hit on 17 touchdowns while throwing only eight interceptions.
Special Teams: Keep Finding Playmakers
Julius Peppers blocked a field goal, Adam Podlesh pulled off a faked extra point for a two-point conversion run, and Eric Weems helped set a tone in the win over the Vikings with his aggressiveness in punt and kick coverage. There is something for everyone on the Bears special teams unit, and Dave Toub knows how to find niches for his players each week. The first job is to keep Leon Washington in check on kick return this week. He ran back an NFL record eight career touchdown in the loss at Miami and is now the league’s number three return man behind Percy Harvin of the Vikings and Jacoby Jones of Baltimore. Washington is also an accomplished punt returner.
Intangibles: Make ‘Em Sleepy In Seattle
After 11 hours of flight time going back and forth from the Pacific Northwest to South Beach and back, the Seahawks hit the Windy City for a Noon central kickoff, which means the body clock will say 10AM Seattle time. It stands to reason the Bears get a bit of an edge in this regard, but only if they take advantage of it. A poor start, which continues to be an issue will take the edge off. Seattle is a 1-and-5 team on the road, and the Bears have to make sure the Seahawks feel like winning at Soldier Field is an unattainable mission. However, Seattle also arrives knowing they walloped the Bears 38-14 in week 15 last season at Soldier Field. Different time and place with Jay Cutler quarterbacking the Bears, and Brandon Marshall catching his passes. Pete Carroll’s Seahawks have claimed Green Bay and New England among their victories this season, so the Bears cannot fall asleep on this bunch.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play voice of the Chicago Bears on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. You can follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffJoniak.