The Chicago Bears demonstrated none of the so-called “flatness” seen by other playoff teams at the beginning of games. In the case of the matchup against the Seattle Seahawks, this is because the Chicago Bears took the Momentum early and held on to it. Seattle was never able to perform a discontinuity on Chicago and take the momentum back.
That said, do not let Seattle’s performance in the game against Chicago do anything to detract from their win over New Orleans in the wildcard round. New Orleans would not have done anything further in the tournament because the Saints did not have a defense that could win in the playoffs. For that matter, Atlanta did not have a playoff-caliber defense either. Throughout the last several seasons of the Saints and Falcons’ rise to prominence and national recognition, I have repeatedly called out their defenses and made this point. Seattle and Green Bay exploited those defenses in the Wildcard and Divisional rounds, which resulted in their respective victories.
One point that cannot be stressed enough in Seattle’s loss to Chicago Sunday is the loss of John Carlson, Seattle’s premiere tight end. The injury he sustained is impossible to understate. He was a primary part of the offensive scheme and gameplan for Pete Carroll and the Seahawks.
Coupled with the lack of Carlson were the dropped passes throughout the entire game by all of the Seattle receivers. Carlson’s absence was noticed immediately when his replacement, Cameron Morrah, dropped a pass from Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck that would have been a key first down and a 20+ yard gain. Had that play been completed, Seattle may have had the grounds to implement a discontinuity, which would then have allowed Seattle the opportunity to take back the momentum. As the snow swirled in Soldier Field, numerous other receivers dropped catchable balls, balls that would have taken strides towards capturing momentum and extending the playoff life of the Seattle Seahawks.
A major flaw for Seattle in this game was that the Seahawks’ gameplan depended on certain players. This made the gameplan inherently weak. A team’s gameplan should never be predicated upon certain players: true gameplanning should provide for overcoming potential injury so that if injury occurs, the team can remain competitive.
Chicago dominated the Seattle Seahawks because Seattle’s gameplanning deficiencies led into taking the role of the passive element, whereas the Bears immediately established themselves as an active element on their first offensive possession – then never relinquished that standing.
For a brief moment in the fourth quarter, the Bears gave the Seahawks a chance to get back in the game. Chicago running back Matt Forte threw an ill-advised pass from the Wildcat formation, and it was picked off by linebacker Aaron Curry in Chicago territory. Then, defensive back Kelly Jennings of the Bears grabbed an apparent interception, but was then called for defensive pass interference, extending the ensuing Seattle drive. Veteran Matt Hasselbeck then was able to hit Mike Williams for a touchdown, giving Seattle slim hope as the score changed from 28-3 to 28-10. However, the Seattle onside kick went to Chicago, and Chicago simply maintained the momentum and their lead in addition to taking time off the clock. Quarterback Jay Cutler of the Bears then took the kill shot with a touchdown strike to tight end Kellen Davis, taking the lead to 35-10.
Towards the very end of the game, the Chicago Bears defense did loosen up. Cornerback Charles Tillman dove for what wound up being his second dropped interception of the game, holding the ball up in the air just long enough for resurgent wide receiver Mike Williams to catch a second touchdown pass to take the lead back down to 18 points, making it 35-17. In many ways, though, this late score was just too little, too late. Seattle’s onside kick attempt failed, with several Seahawks flying by the free ball due to their own inertia.
The relaxation of the Bears’ defense continued, as the Seahawks scored a third touchdown to cut the lead from 35-17 to 35-24. For Chicago’s defense to be able to slow down and overcome Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers next week, though, they need to learn how to finish a game. Finally, though, the Bears held off the Seahawks, running the clock out to win 35-24.
As Chicago has a defense that is able to win in the playoffs, unlike the Falcons and the Saints; the NFC Championship Game should look far different than the Green Bay @ Atlanta Divisional Round game. The Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears, longtime division rivals, will play each other in the postseason for only the second time in history. In the first game, the two storied franchises played a week after Pearl Harbor, on December 14, 1941. The Bears won 33-14. No matter the result next week, it’s safe to say that it will be an historical event and a thrilling chapter in the NFC North rivalry.