Well, almost a week later, it doesn’t look any better for the Seahawks.
As expected, they will be without quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (broken rib), tackle Sean Locklear (ankle), cornerback Josh Wilson (ankle), and linebacker Leroy Hill (groin). Linebacker Lofa Tatupu (hamstring) and fullback Justin Griffith (sprained knee) also are very unlikely to play.
Left tackle Walter Jones (knee) will be a game-time decision, and cornerback Ken Lucas (groin) and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (calf) also are questionable.
On the bright side, receivers Deion Branch (hamstring) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (back spasms) will be ready, center Chris Spencer (quadriceps) might start, and cornerback Travis Fisher (hamstring) is finally healthy.
Where to start?
Well, the defense is in deep trouble, with as many as five starters out. The Seahawks got a taste last week of what it’s like to play without Hill and Tatupu, and the result was over 200 rushing yards by Frank Gore. David Hawthorne will start in the middle this week, flanked by Will Herring and Aaron Curry. It’s a young group that has to play much better than it did in Week 2.
With the secondary missing two corners (Wilson and Marcus Trufant) and Lucas ailing, Kelly Jennings is the top corner. He seems to have improved quite a bit this year, and he will have to show it against the speedy Devin Hester and Johnny Knox. For once, size won’t be a big disadvantage for the 5-foot-9 Jennings. Hester is only 5-11, and Knox and Earl Bennett are each 6 feet.
With all of the injuries in the back seven, the D-line has to get pressure on Chicago QB Jay Cutler, or he will pick the secondary apart. The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t get much pressure on him last week (two sacks, four total hits), and he was very good (27 of 38 for 236 yards and two touchdowns).
Lawrence Jackson has been a very pleasant surprise early this season, with three sacks in the first two games. He, Patrick Kerney, and Darryl Tapp (who was great against St. Louis in Week 1) need to get pressure on Cutler.
Matt Forte is off to a slow start this season, and the Hawks have to make sure not to let him go off the way Gore did. It is all on the guys up front this week, and having Mebane would definitely help.
Realistically, the Bears figure to score three touchdowns against Seattle’s beleaguered defense, which means the Seahawk offense has to get it going.
The Bears’ fifth-ranked defense has injury problems, too, with star linebacker Brian Urlacher out for the season and linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee) out this week. End Alex Brown (ankle) also is questionable. The Seahawks have to take advantage and get the running game going after it was held to 66 yards on 23 carries in San Francisco.
Quarterback Seneca Wallace needs to put pressure on the Bears with his athleticism, and he needs to take a few shots deep. He throws an excellent deep ball, and the Hawks need to try to loosen up the defense for the running game by hitting one or two long passes. In that respect, Deon Butler could be a big key.
Wallace has had a week to get in sync with his receivers. Coming in cold last week, he hit starters Houshmandzadeh and Nate Burleson on just three of the 10 passes he threw their way. They have to connect more than that this week.
Wallace also needs to take great advantage of tight end John Carlson, who should win most battles against Chicago’s backup linebackers and be a big offensive key.
Three & out: Q&A
Three quick questions as the Hawks enter Week 3:
Q: If Jones can’t play, are the Seahawks doomed?
A: Brandon Frye played for almost three quarters last week and looked like he held up pretty well, so they might not be doomed. The Seahawks might have to give him help at times with fullback Owen Schmitt (starting for Griffith), and Wallace might have to use his feet to buy some time on occasion. The Seahawks would be smart to roll out Wallace a lot and give him the option of pass or run. The problem would come if Frye or right tackle Ray Willis got injured. The Seahawks have gambled big time by not signing an extra tackle for depth while Locklear is out. Then again, maybe they know Jones will play and are just not saying it.
Q: Will Justin Forsett get more playing time?
A: Only if the Seahawks fall behind like they did in San Francisco. He was one of the few bright spots against the 49ers, running for 35 yards on five carries and gaining 57 yards on six catches. But for now, coach Jim Mora said, the Hawks are going to stick to the 60-30-10 percent division of time among Julius Jones, Edgerrin James and Forsett. If the running game struggles badly in the first half, though, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Seahawks open it up in the second half. The Hawks really need to win this home game, and Mora needs to do whatever it takes.
Q: Are the Seahawks really going to wear those ugly neon green jerseys?
A: It sure looks like it. Let’s just hope they don’t play as bad as they look. We’re skeptical of this look, but we’ll reserve judgment until after the game. If the Hawks win big, they can wear whatever they want. If they play like they did in San Francisco, though, Seahawk fans next week probably will be listed on the injury report as questionable with eye injuries.
**Despite their poor rushing numbers in Week 2, the Seahawks are ranked 13th in rushing offense. The Bears have had a much worse time, averaging just 65 yards per game (ranked 30th).
**Both teams are among the top-10 sackers through two games. The Seahawks have seven (two off the lead), and the Bears have six.
**The Bears have the fifth-ranked defense, giving up just 176.5 passing yards and 90.5 rushing yards per game. The Seahawks are ranked 12th despite giving up 166 rushing yards per game (they have held the Rams and 49ers to under 300 yards passing total).
**The last time these teams saw each other was in 2007, when Hasselbeck threw for 337 yards and two touchdowns and Kerney had three sacks in Seattle’s 30-23 win.
**If Kerney can duplicate that feat, the Hawks have a great chance to win. His teams are 10-2 when he has at least two sacks.
**Julius Jones and James put up back-to-back big games against the Bears in 2004. In a Monday night game in November, James ran for 204 yards for the Colts; on Thanksgiving three days later, Jones went over 150 yards with two touchdowns for Dallas.
**Carlson has scored in his past four home games, with five total touchdowns in that span.
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