The phrase “must-win game” gets thrown out a lot in sports, but sometimes it definitively applies.
For the Seattle Seahawks a win against the Chicago Bears on the road would be a huge step towards a playoff spot. In addition, it would be a major confidence boost for a team that has struggled mightily on the road.
Obviously, there are a lot of things that have to happen in order for the Seahawks to win. Keys to the game include getting the running game going, minimizing penalties and being smart on offense against a stingy Bears defense.
In order for the ‘Hawks to beat the Bears, we need to see a reemergence of their pass-rushing dynamic duo.
Bruce Irvin and Chris Clemons must chase Jay Cutler all over the field.
Granted, this is easier said than done.
When the Seahawks sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times in the first half of that wacky Monday night game, Seattle fans thought they were looking at an unstoppable pass rush that would dominate all season.
In that game, Clemons had four sacks and rookie Irvin had two.
Since that game, Clemons has managed three sacks in eight games. Irvin has put together 4.5 sacks in that span. I suppose it was too much to ask for eight sacks every game.
Those are still reasonably acceptable numbers, but they do not reflect the dominance that Seattle fans were looking for from these two athletes.
As a team, the Seahawks are tied for ninth in the league in total sacks. Through 11 games, Seattle has 29 sacks. In comparison, Denver leads the league with 37.
Incidentally, the Bears have 30. Russell Wilson may be doing some running in Chicago.
Clemons did manage a sack against the Miami Dolphins, but that was it for the team. The lack of pressure on Ryan Tannehill was fairly obvious, particularly down the stretch.
Seattle must do better against Chicago.
On paper, the Bears are vulnerable to the sack. Chicago ranks third in the NFL in sacks allowed at 35 for the year. That works out to a little over three per game. If Seattle could sack Jay Cutler four-to-five times in this game, that would go a long way towards setting a defensive tone.
Two weeks ago, San Francisco registered six sacks against Chicago. That is a good number to shoot for this week.
In case you were wondering, Seattle has given up 21 sacks, which is ninth-best in the NFL.
The impact of an effective pass rush is obvious. If you give any quarterback enough time, he will eventually find an open receiver. When the defensive backs are covering receivers and the linebackers are providing support for the defensive line against the run, that leaves the middle of the field open.
Unfortunately, that is where the Seahawks have been vulnerable of late. I do not doubt that there is a correlation.
Chase Cutler and it could be the catalyst for an important road win. I suspect that this may be a low-scoring affair, which means that the pass rush must keep the Chicago offense contained.
It is time for the Seahawks to hunt some Bears.