The 5 Most Important Players In Sunday's Bears-Seahawks Matchup
With the Bears pulling off an extremely momentous victory over the World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers last week, they will be looking to take their record to 2-1 this Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.
With an "easier" portion of their schedule on tap, the Bears need to keep the momentum moving in the positive direction by beating the teams that they should, and pulling off an "upset" victory here and there.
With that in mind, I thought I'd detail the five most important players in Sunday's game that will help determine whether or not the Bears can keep their winning ways alive.
With Matt Hasselbeck out of the lineup, Seneca Wallace is going to step in. And even though he is a step down from Hasselbeck, the Seahawks are still going to try and throw on the Bears.
The Bears have to remember that Seneca Wallace has started in the NFL before and has done decently well. He is a fairly accurate quarterback. Last season, he started 8 games and only threw 3 interceptions.
And, they also can't sleep on his ability to make the big play. Not only can he get the ball downfield, but he can also make plays with his feet.
The best receiver on the Seahawks roster is TJ Houshmandzadeh, who even at 32 years old (he turns 32 tomorrow and will probably want to celebrate with a big game), and suffering with a sore back, can still make plays. Peanut Tillman is going to have to do a good job in his coverage to keep him from making those big plays.
It would be great for Peanut to shut him down completely, and make the likes of Nate Burleson and an old Deion Branch beat them. TJ is going to get his fair share of balls thrown his way and will probably make some catches, but it will be up to Peanut to make the tackles and keep him from breaking a big gain.
If the Bears can take away their passing threat, the weakness of their running game will not be able to do enough damage to give them a victory of the Bears.
Even though the Seahawks are more of a passing-styled offense, they are still going to try and run the ball.
They have not been too effective with their running game, outside of a long TD run by Julius Jones in Week 1. But, that still does not mean the Bears can come into the game too cocky.
This is still the NFL, and Julius Jones is a serviceable RB who can break big plays, and have big games if he is allowed to.
With that being said, it will be the job of the defensive line to get a push on the offensive line of the Seahawks and push them into the backfield, either making the tackle or pushing Jones (and whoever else may be running the ball) to the outside, where the cornerbacks and linebackers can make the plays they're being paid to make.
I have singled out Tommie Harris because he has been our big playmaker in the past, and I would like to see him return to his old self. The play he made last week late in the game just about won the game for us, setting the stage for the missed field goal that allowed us to win the game.
If he can get a push like that this coming Sunday, and muffle the Seahawks' running attack, they will have no other option but to pass the ball, which can set our defensive backs up nicely to make plays, knowing what is coming.
The Seahawks offensive line has only given up one sack so far this season, and have only allowed eight tackles for a loss. I know that not all of those are the fault of the line, but that is still a pretty good stat for two games being played.
The Bears have 16 TFL (tackles for a loss) on the season. With the Seahawks being a pass-first type of offense, those numbers are bound to be down, but I still think it speaks highly of their offensive line.
And, then I remember that they have faced St. Louis and San Francisco in their first two games. I think it's time the Bears defensive line introduced them to the 2009 season.
More so than Devin Hester and Greg Olsen, I believe that Johnny Knox is the key factor to the Bears' offensive passing game.
I still believe Hester is the Bears' number one wide receiver, and Greg Olsen should be their main "possession guy," but Johnny Knox has shown that he can be the Bears' playmaker.
He has great speed, good hands, and has shown that he can run routes. He is still a rookie and will make rookie mistakes (which we all know about), but given the time to develop as a wideout and to develop chemistry with Jay Cutler, I believe that he can become a standout playmaker in the NFL.
It was apparent last week that Cutler has confidence in his abilities, so all that is up next is getting the opportunities to showcase them.
The Seahawks' secondary has not been tested too much this season. The Rams and 49ers have thrown on them, but not to the extent I believe the Bears will. And, they will be without their starting cornerback Josh Wilson, which brings Kelly Jennings to the starter role.
None of the Seahawks defensive backs are known as ballhawks. They do not have an interception in their first two games, and didn't have all that many last season, either, only amassing 9 interceptions all of last season.
So, if you are going to beat the Seahawks, through the air might be the way to go.
I know Lovie Smith has talked about how he wants to get the running game going, but I still think the passing game has gotten off to a puttering start, so he might want to think about getting both facets up and running this week, going up against a defensively subpar team.
And, if some big plays are going to be made, I believe they will be made to Johnny Knox.
I am not sure, yet, what to think of the job Orlando Pace has done.
I don't know if I want to blame it on the schemes that Green Bay threw at the Bears, or the fact that he had to block the likes of James Harrison.
Perhaps a game against the Seattle Seahawks is just what the doctor ordered for his confidence.
Although, the reason I have him on this list is that he has the job of blocking the Seahawks' best pass rushing threat, Patrick Kerney. Kerney is getting old, just like Pace, but he is still a threat to get to the quarterback.
Orlando cannot let him constantly beat him into the backfield if the Bears are going to have a chance at winning this game.
If Kerney does prove too much for Pace to handle, I would like to see the Bears start running some delayed handoffs to the left side, so that Kerney will already be to the outside and upfield before he can realize that Forte/Peterson are trudging downfield.
But, if Kerney gets into the backfield and puts pressure on Cutler, it could be a replay of what happened against Green Bay, with Cutler throwing in a hurry and the receivers not being ready for the ball.
I am holding out hope that Orlando can still get the job done, but if he can't, the Bears, and mostly Jay Cutler, will be in for a long season.
A lot has been made about the struggles of Matt Forte so far this season (even I posted an article earlier this week about it http://bleacherreport.com/articles/259366-the-matt-forte-saga-why-is-he-struggling-so-much), but with the coaching staff bound to get him going this week, Bears fans and media alike can be expecting a big game out of him.
The Seahawks have made no showing of having a run stopping defense (as evident by Frank Gore's game last week), so they can expect nothing less from the Bears this week.
Even in the game against the Rams, Steven Jackson ran fairly well, but they were down most of the game, so had to abandon the run for the passing game.
That tends to happen when you're down by four touchdowns and haven't even scored a point yet.
If Matt Forte can get his act together and start breaking runs into the open field, the passing game will open up as well. And, he is a part of that too, so he could be in line for a Chris Johnson-like game with rushing yards galore, rushing touchdowns, and big plays in the passing game, as well.
The Bears should look to get Forte the ball early, allow him to bring the defense in, and then run some play action plays to get the ball downfield to open up the defense, confuse it, and then the Bears can have at them any which way they want.
If Forte can't gain yards on the ground, I think the Bears should abandon the run early, score points through the air, and try and work Forte's ground game when they are trying to keep the clock running late in the game.
Confidence can be built at the end of games just the way it can at the beginning.