Who: Chicago Bears (0-2) vs. Seattle Seahawks (0-2)
Where: CenturyLink Field
When: 3:25 p.m. CT
Radio: WBBM (780 AM & 105.9 FM)
The Seahawks hold a 10-4 advantage in the all-time series, winning the last three regular-season meetings. The Bears hold a 2-0 edge in the playoffs, claiming divisional playoff victories at Soldier Field in the 2006 and 2010 postseasons. The Seahawks hold a 4-2 advantage in Seattle, with the Bears winning the last contest played there, 25-19, in 2009.
The two teams first met in 1976, the Seahawks' inaugural NFL season, with Chicago posting a 34-7 victory in Seattle.
Sunday's contest will be the Bears' first road game and the Seahawks' first home game. Seattle has won six stright home openers, the second longest active streak in the NFL. It wil be the third consecutive 2014 NFC playoff team that the Bears will play to start the 2015 regular season.
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll was the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator at Pacific in 1983 when Bears defensive backs coach Ed Donatell was the school's defensive backs coach. The two reconnected with the New York Jets from 1990-94 when Donatell was the defensive backs coach and Carroll was the defensvie coordinator (1990-93) before being named head coach in 1994.
Donatell was a defensive back coach at Idaho in 1987-88 when Seahawks assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tom Cable was getting his coaching start as a graduate assistant at the school. The two coached together again in 2006 when Donatell was the defensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons and Cable was the team's offensive line coach.
Donatell was the Packers defensive coordinator in 2000-03 and Bears running backs coach Stan Drayton was an offensive and special teams quality control coach in 2001-03 when Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was an offensive assistant/quality control coach (2000-02) and quarterbacks coach (2003) and Seahawks assistant offensive line coach Pat Ruel (2001-02) held the same role in Green Bay.
Head Coach Comparison
|JOHN FOX||Pete Carroll|
|119-91 (.567)||Regular-Season Record (Pct.)||83-63 (.568)|
|14th||Years as NFL head coach||10th|
|1st||Years as team's head coach||6th|
|1-5||Career vs. Team||4-2|
|BEARS (NFL RANK)||SEAHAWKS (NFL RANK|
|23.0 (T-16th)||Points Scored||24.0 (14th)|
|368.5 (8th)||Total Offense||333.5 (19th)|
|149.0 (5th)||Rushing Offense||121.5 (11th)|
|219.5 (19th)||Passing Offense||212.0 (20th)|
|39.5 (32nd)||Points Allowed||30.5 (T-29th)|
|311.0 (7th)||Total Defense||356.5 (17th)|
|124.0 (T-22nd)||Rushing Defense||101.5 (15th)|
|187.0 (4th)||Passing Defense||255.0 (21st)|
|-1 (T-16th)||Turnover Ratio||+1 (T-10th)|
For the Bears, QB Jay Cutler (hamstring), WR Alshon Jeffery (hamstring/calf) have been ruled out. LB Jon Bostic (ankle) is doubtful. Jimmy Clausen will start in place of Cutler.
Questionable for the Bears are DL Ego Ferguson (knee), OLB Pernell McPhee (knee), CB Tracy Porter (hamstring) and WR Eddie Royal (back/hip).
Probable for the Bears are RB Matt Forte (knee), G Matt Slauson (thigh/toe) and WR Marquess Wilson (shoulder).
For the Seahawks, CB Tharold Simon (toe) and S Steven Terrell (hip) have been ruled out.
Questionable for Seattle are RB Marshawn Lynch (calf) and TE Luke Wilson (back). Probable for the Seahawks are DE Michael Bennett (toe), QB Tarvaris Jackson (ankle), LB Michael Morgan (hamstring), LB Bobby Wagner (ankle) and CB Cary Williams (thigh).
The Clausen Files
Jay Cutler has been ruled out for Sunday's contest due to a hamstring injury suffered last week against the Cardinals. That thrusts veteran Jimmy Clausen into the starting role.
Clausen is making his second start for the Bears. He started Week 16 last season against the Detroit Lions, completing 23 of 39 passes for 181 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT, good for a 77.0 QB rating. The Lions won the game 20-14.
For his career, Clausen has started 11 games, completing 197 of 370 passes (52.3 completion percentage), with 5 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, and he's been sacked 38 times.
Let's not sugarcoat this: Clausen is going to have a rough day. He's started just one game since 2010 and now has to go on the road to Seattle, one of the toughest places in the league to play, to face an 0-2 Seahawks team desperate for a win. CenturyLink Field is known as one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, which just piles on one more hurdle for Clausen and the offense.
“I think the biggest thing is going to be communication for us," Clausen said this week. "Go out, get the line all set, communicate well, get the protections, the runs, the backs, receivers the play and then go execute. That’s the biggest thing for us, getting the play, communicating and being on the same page and not making the errors we did last week.”
Seattle's secondary has finished first in passing defense the last two seasons, with arguably the best cornerback - Richard Sherman - and safety - Kam Chancellor, who is back after holding out - in the NFL.
"They're very fast. Very smart," said Clausen. "Having a guy like Richard Sherman, who played receiver at Stanford, he knows all the concepts and everything. So all those guys are smart. Earl [Thomas] is smart. Kam’s smart. So I think the biggest thing is just how they play the game. They’re real physical. They fly around to the ball and make plays."
As such, Clausen will try to simplify things on Sunday.
“Just going out with confidence and making plays, getting the ball to the playmakers," Clausen said. "Obviously I can’t make too many plays if I have the ball in my hands, so I’ve got to distribute it to the running backs, tight ends, receivers, and just get those guys the ball in space and let them make plays.”
The problem for Clausen is that his top playmaker, Jeffery, won't play and even if Royal is active, he won't be anywhere near 100 percent. As a result, expect a lot of high-percentage passes on quick outs, swing passes and screens. Yet at many points in this contest, Clausen will be forced to step up into the pocket and deliver balls down the field. Those plays will largely be the determining factor as to whether or not the Bears can move the ball with any consistency.
Bears on Offense
Matchups to Watch
TE Martellus Bennett vs. S Kam Chancellor
If you pay attention to the NFL, you'd think Kam Chanellor's return was the second coming of our savior. He's arguably the best safety in the NFL, a hard hitter who plays like a linebacker against the run and also has the cover skills of cornerback. On paper, that's not good for the Bears, yet any coach or player in the league will tell you it takes time to get into game shape. Working out on your own doesn't replicate the physical demands on a player's body that come from practices and games. So is Chancellor the one who is going to buck the trend? It's doubtful, which is why the Bears should throw at Chancellor this week and force the rusty vetern to make plays. That entails plenty of targets to Martellus Bennett, who can be one of the toughest tight ends in the league to cover down the field. If the Bears can get Bennett matched up on Chancellor one-on-one, Clausen needs to throw the ball up and let Bennett finish. For this week, that could be a recipe for thrid-down success.
DE Cliff Avril vs. RT Kyle Long
Cliff Avril has yet to pick up a sack this season but he's still an extremely dangerous edge rusher. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Avril leads the Seahawks with 10 QB hurries through two games. That's impressive. Seattle will sometimes flip flop Avril and fellow defensive end Michael Bennett but for most of the game, Avril will be coming off the right edge. Kyle Long has an awkward cast on his right hand and is only in his third game at right tackle, so this is a big challenge for him. Long has played well to this point but the Seahawks pass rush is a step above the rest of the league. Long must win the one-on-one battles with Avril to give Clausen time in the pocket, otherwise things will get very ugly, very fast.
Keys on Offense
-The Bears have had rotten luck at the wide receiver position and will be without Alshon Jeffery for the second week in a row, while Eddie Royal will be a game-time decision. That means Marquess Wilson will again be thrust into the No. 1 role. Through two games he has three catches and was manhandled last week by Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson. Things don't get any easier for Wilson this week, as he'll see plenty of Richard Sherman on Sunday. Despite the tough matchup, Wilson needs to make some plays. He's 6-3, 200 pounds with good speed and leaping ability. There's no reason a player of his size and talent level should be non-existent for 60 minutes. If Wilson can execute on some timely intermediate and deep routes, Chicago's passing attack stands a slight chance.
-DE Michael Bennett was a late addition to Seattle's injury report and is listed as questionable. If he does play, the Bears must find a way to contain him. Bennett leads the Seahawks with 2.0 sacks and is an extremely disruptive pass rusher. That puts pressure on LT Jermon Bushrod, who has given up a sack and four QB hurries through two games. Bushrod has been dealing with a back issue but was not on the injury report this week, so presumably he's healthy. He'll need to have a strong outing, otherwise Bennett and company are going to make life miserable for Clausen.
-The only way the Bears are going to be successful this weekend is to run the football. After Week 2, Chicago was ranked 5th in the NFL in rushing yards, while Matt Forte's 202 rushing yards were 4th-most in the league. Without their No. 1 quarterback and wide receiver, leaning on Forte is Chicago's only viable option. The problem is that Seattle is well aware of this as well, so expect the Seahawks to repeatedly load the box with eight or nine players to stop Forte and force Clausen to beat them. Because of that, it's going to be hard for the Bears to consistently move the ball on the ground. Yet they can't go away from it, no matter what happens on the scoreboard. If that means giving Forte and Jeremy Langford 20 carries apiece, which is a surefire way to win the time-of-possession battle, so be it. But if offensive coordinator Adam Gase channels his inner Marc Trestman and abandons the run, thus putting the weight of the offense on Clausen's shoulders, the Bears will have no chance of competing.
Bears on Defense
Matchups to Watch
OLB Pernell McPhee vs. RT Garry Gilliam
Garry Gilliam is a second-year player making just his fourth NFL start. He's allowed nine QB hurries, per PFF, through the first two contests. While he's a decent run blocker, Gilliams struggles in space and is very beatable on passing downs. That should be a matchup Pernell McPhee can exploit. He still doesn't have a sack this season but McPhee has had a bunch of flash plays and nearly finished twice last week. He's dealing with a knee injury but McPhee said he'll play on Sunday. If he does, he must take advantage of Gilliam and regularly collapse the pocket. That would be a big help to the Bears secondary, a struggling unit that even I could light up if given time in the pocket.
LB Shea McClellin vs. TE Jimmy Graham
The Bears this season have faced two offenses that basically ignore their tight ends. That won't be the case against the Seahawks, who have one of the best tight ends in the league in Jimmy Graham. Last week, Graham was targeted just twice, which left a bad taste in his mouth. He's been vocal this week about his lack of use, so expect Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell to dial up plenty of plays for Graham, particularly early in the game. If the Bears are smart, they'll bracket Graham with Shea McClellin underneath and a safety over the top. McClellin has struggled in coverage this year and cannot be relied upon to square up on Graham 1-on-1, so he has to have safety help. By doubling Graham, the Bears can limit Seattle's best playmaker in the passing attack, and thus force Russell Wilson to throw to his mediocre set of wideouts.
Keys on Defense
-Marshawn Lynch is dealing with a calf injury and is listed as questionable, but I fully expect him to play. Even if at less than 100 percent, Lynch is still a force with the ball in his hands. The first step in stopping Lynch is gap control. Chicago's down linemen must 2-gap and control the line of scrimmage, while the linebackers must be sound in their run fits. Just one mistake in that area and Lynch will make them pay. The second step is to tackle well. Lynch's nickname is Beast Mode due to his powerful running style. He's one of the hardest running backs in the league to take to the ground, so the Bears must be under control and use good form when tackling Lynch, otherwise he could easily top 150 yards on the ground.
-Despite their success running the ball the past few years, the Seahawks do not have a good offensive line. In fact, their three interior linemen might be the worst threesome in the NFL. LG J.R. Sweezy, C Drew Nowak and RG Justin Britt have struggled mightily the first two weeks, which has played a big role in Seattle's 0-2 start. That means NT Eddie Goldman, DE Ego Ferguson, DE Will Sutton and DE Jarvis Jenkins must dominate the line of scrimmage. There will be no excuse for those defensive linemen to fail at the point of attack. If they can be disruptive and win their 1-on-1 matchups inside, the Seahawks will struggle to run the football, which is exactly what has to happen for the Bears to have any chance of pulling out a victory.
-WR Doug Baldwin leads all Seahawks players in targets (17), receptions (14) and receiving yards (127). Baldwin doesn't have great size or speed, but he's the best of a bunch of bad options. Cornerback Alan Ball has been very unreliable this year but played better in Week 2 than he did in the opener - although neither performance was up to par. This is a matchup Ball must win. DC Vic Fangio won't likely give Ball help over the top - that will happen in the middle of the field with Graham - so Ball is going to have to man up on Baldwin and make plays when passes are thrown his way.