By Jeff Joniak–
(CBS) The Bears (0-2) are on the road to face the Seahawks (0-2) on Sunday at 3:25 p.m. CT. Here are my keys to the game for Chicago.
The Seahawks will be as challenging a task as any for the Bears this season. Few teams can argue their defense has been better than Seattle’s in the last two seasons, which both ended in Super Bowl trips. It’s a unit dotted with stars, and the Seahawks get back one of their rocks in the Legion of Boom secondary. Safety Kam Chancellor is the heartbeat of the unit and reported this week after a holdout.
Up front, the Bears have to block Michael Bennett, a disruptive presence who can ruin drives with his aggressive penetration against the run or by collapsing the pocket. The Seahawks pressured the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers 19 times in Week 2. Seattle’s edge speed must be muted by Chicago. The Seahawks’ back seven makes plays, from Bobby Wagner to Richard Sherman to Earl Thomas. It’s a good tackling team.
A steady diet of runs from running backs Matt Forte, Jeremy Langford and Jacquizz Rodgers and a big game from tight end Martellus Bennett will be the Bears’ keys to moving the chains. There will be moments where a big play will need to be made, and on the road in that noisy stadium, the Bears’ execution has little room for error. Jimmy Clausen wants to be a starter in the NFL, and he gets one of the most difficult assignments in any week for any team.
Defense: Get after Seattle’s offensive line
It’s back to dealing with a mobile quarterback this week for the Bears defense. Few are better than Russell Wilson at creating throwing windows with his feet and pump fakes to get defenders in the air and grasping at it when they try to tackle him on the move.
Wilson is at his best when he’s controlling the tempo and attacking defenses. However, he can be attacked as well. The Rams sacked him six times, and the Packers did so twice. Seattle’s offensive line has several new pieces and has yet to jell. The Bears will want to get after that offensive line and get to stopping Marshawn Lynch, one of the premier tackle-breakers in football. Coming downhill with an aggressive and fundamental approach with multiple bodies is the only way to jam Lynch up. If he gets going, he will wear out a defense.
Wilson throws to a confident stable of tough-minded receivers, but they’ve yet to include new tight end Jimmy Graham in the passing game consistently. He’s been targeted only 10 times in two games. He’s a weapon the Bears have to zero in on this week.
Special teams: No big plays
Field position will be a huge key for the Bears. Special teams penalties or returns that don’t reach the 20 will just complicate the play-calling of offensive coordinator Adam Gase and fuel an already hyped-up crowd. So will big Seattle returns. It will be another challenge for the Bears with rookie returner Tyler Lockett and his 4.35 speed. He took back a punt 57 yards for a touchdown in St. Louis. He also scored twice on returns in the preseason. The Bears have been burned by Packers rookie Ty Montgomery and Cardinals rookie David Johnson already this season. Preventing the big play will be a key component in pulling an upset.
Intangibles: No fear
Seattle started 3-3 last season and finished a play shy of winning the Super Bowl. Therefore, a winless start in two games doesn’t make the Seahawks sweat.
An 0-3 start might though. It’s Seattle’s home opener, and “The 12th man” of CenturyLink Field will be rocking. It’s the loudest fan base in the NFL. The Bears will have to mute that noise with their execution, particularly in the running game. If Chicago wants to be an aggressive, physical team in every phase, this is the game and the place to prove that.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.