OffenseThe Bears are 30th in the league in total offense (289.4 yards per game), 22nd in rushing (101.0) and 28th in passing (188.4). The Seahawks are 27th in the league in total defense (368.6 yards allowed per game), 21st against the run (118.9) and 27th against the pass (249.6).
Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz was still in pass-happy mode during the first battle with the Seahawks back in Week 6, as running back Matt Forte only got eight carries and quarterback Jay Cutler dropped back in the pocket 47 times. Chicago's seismic shift in philosophy after the bye in Week 8 has been well documented, with Martz finally committing to the ground game, Cutler not being asked to be the second coming of Kurt Warner and the offensive line eventually developing some chemistry up front. Since Seattle didn't do much defensively this year to distinguish itself against the run or the pass, Martz has all the incentive he needs to put together a balanced game plan and keep his play-calling as unpredictable as possible.
Rookie right tackle J'Marcus Webb will be challenged by D-end Chris Clemons, who led the Seahawks with 11 sacks, plus Cutler needs to be locate safety Earl Thomas before every snap, as the first-round pick intercepted a team-high five passes.
DefenseThe Bears are ninth in the league in total defense (314.3 yards allowed per game), second against the run (90.1) and 20th against the pass (224.2). The Seahawks are 28th in the league in total offense (297.8 yards per game), 31st in rushing (89.0) and 19th in passing (208.8).
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli had never been a play-caller before the 2010 campaign at any level, but he knew the Cover 2 like the back of his hand and had success stripping the scheme down to its bare essentials. Instead of forcing the issue with an array of blitzes in an attempt to put consistent pressure on the quarterback, the free-agent addition of Julius Peppers and the emergence of Israel Idonije at the two D-end positions allowed Marinelli to only rush four most of the time and then drop seven into coverage, which in large part took away big plays downfield and provided more opportunities to force crucial turnovers. The Seahawks had a miserable time running the football this year, despite the fact that Marshawn Lynch looked like Earl Campbell on a 67-yard touchdown jaunt against the Saints in the wild-card round, so the Bears D will look to make Seattle a one-dimensional offense and take its chances with Matt Hasselbeck throwing to an average cast of receivers.
But cornerbacks Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings and maybe reserve Zack Bowman need to find a way to contain Mike Williams, as the 6-5, 235-pounder had a career day in October at Soldier Field with 10 catches for 123 yards.
Special TeamsThe Bears are second in the league in kick returns (25.4 yards per attempt) and first in punt returns (17.1). Chicago is 23rd in the league in defending kick returns (23.8 yards allowed per attempt) and ninth in defending punt returns (7.8). The Seahawks are tied for 10th in the league in kick returns (24.0 yards per attempt) and ninth in punt returns (11.1). Seattle is 15th in the league in defending kick returns (22.0 yards allowed per attempt) and tied for 19th in defending punt returns (9.3).
Bears kicker Robbie Gould connected on 25 of 30 field-goal attempts (83.3 percent) with a long of 54 and was good on all 35 of his extra-point tries. Punter Brad Maynard averaged 40.1 yards per attempt with a long of 56 and dropped 24 inside the 20-yard line. Seahawks kicker Olindo Mare also hit on 25 of 30 field-goal attempts with a long of 51 and made all 31 of his extra-point tries. Punter Jon Ryan averaged 41.7 yards per attempt with a long of 63 and pinned 27 inside the 20-yard line.
The Monsters of the Midway usually have an advantage over every team they play when it comes to the return game, but that may not necessarily be the case Sunday against the Seahawks. Yes, Devin Hester is the Pro Bowl return man in the NFC and led the league with three punt-return touchdowns, but Seattle had two punt returners average well into double digits: Leon Washington (11.3 yards per attempt) and rookie Golden Tate (12.6). While the Bears have three sensational kick returners in Hester, Danieal Manning and Johnny Knox, Washington is electric with a 25.6-yard average and tied for the NFL lead with three kick-return TDs.
The kicking game appears to be a wash, with Gould and Maynard's numbers right in line with Mare and Ryan's, but Gould and Maynard are much more used to the harsh elements that come along with a January game in the Windy City.
John Crist is the Publisher of BearReport.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
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