Many experts will tell you that the Chicago Bears' 35-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks was due mostly to Jay Cutler and the passing game.
They may also mention Mike Martz finding a way to utilize Greg Olsen in the passing game. They'll also talk about the always stingy Chicago defense, which also performed admirably in this game despite giving up 24 points in the second half.
Brian Urlacher and company did, after all, shut out the Seahawks in the first half. Matt Hasselbeck threw for only 78 yards in the first half and Seattle's leading rusher in that half was Golden Tate, with one carry for 13 yards.
Nobody thought Marshawn Lynch could repeat that long touchdown run against the New Orleans Saints today, but three rushes for two yards in the first half?
Monsters! Monsters of the Midway!
But some credit needs to go to Martz's playcalling, as he used the running game to set up the passing game.
The Bears' first offensive possession started with two rushes for Matt Forte that went for a productive five and three yards. On 3rd-and-2, the Seahawks anticipated another run.
Instead, Cutler found Olsen running down the field with man-to-man coverage by Lawyer Milloy an obvious mismatch.
The play resulted in a 58-yard touchdown that set the tone for the rest of the game, as Chicago put away the game by the end of the first half with a 21-0 lead. Cutler completed 8-of-16 passes for 177 yards in that half, as Olsen caught three of those completions for 113 yards.
But the running game should be given some credit, as the balanced offensive game plan set up the crisp passing half. Matt Forte led the Bears that half with 10 rushes for 41 yards.
Chester Taylor helped out, carrying the ball four times in the first half for 16 yards and a touchdown.
Even Cutler got into the ground party, rushing for a six-yard touchdown for Chicago's third score and adding another rushing TD in the third quarter. At the 7:28 mark in the fourth quarter, Cutler ran for 46 yards on five carries.
Now the Bears are to set to host the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field. They will play against their arch rivals (to say the least), the Green Bay Packers.
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears2 p.m. CST (FOX)
Is it too early to predict the outcome of the NFC Championship Game? I didn't think so.
The key to this matchup of the oldest rivalry in the NFL will be the Packers' receiving corps going up against the Bears' secondary.
Aaron Rodgers has performed spectacularly against two defenses that are, at best, middle of the pack. Now we will see how he does against one of the best defenses in the league.
Don't expect any 80-yard bombs to be thrown against this defense, as Chicago's Tampa Two defense is designed to prevent such plays. The key to scoring points against this defense is to put together long drives until this defense bends too far.
Green Bay's offense has the capability to do that when the receivers don't fumble the ball after catching it. For those who haven't been watching Packers-Bears games over the past few years, there's a couple things you must know: the Packers' receivers tend to cough up the pigskin and the Bears' secondary likes to take advantage of turnover opportunities.
Expect Charles "Peanut" Tillman and the Chicago secondary to strip the ball away from Greg Jennings and/or James Jones at least once in this game.
As for the matchup of the Packer defense versus the Bear offense, if Cutler and the Chicago offense perform the way they did against the Seahawks, expect them to put up some points (at least more than the three points they put up in Week 17).
As evidenced by Cutler's TD passes to Olsen and Kellen Davis against Seattle, he can utilize the tight ends. And he will need to do so, as Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers likes to send blitzers such as Charles Woodson.
If the Bears' offense can keep the game plan balanced and use the tight ends like they did against the Seahawks, and the defense can force some turnovers, Chicago will be Super Bowl bound.
Bears 24, Packers 21
This article, along with other Divisional Round recaps and the preview of the AFC Championship Game, can be seen on Drew Rosten's Sports Thread at http://drewrosten.blogspot.com/.