Behind Enemy Lines: Part II

Our experts, John Crist of Bear Report and Brian McIntyre of Northwest Football, go Behind Enemy Lines for a closer look at Sunday's matchup between the Bears and Seahawks at Soldier Field.

John Crist: I've always considered Matt Hasselbeck to be one of my favorite passers in the league, as he throws a pretty ball, can really get hot when he's feeling it and does everything he can to win. Still, he's 35 years old and not a part of the future. How long before we see Charlie Whitehurst?

Brian McIntyre: As long as he stays healthy and Seattle stays in the race to "win" the NFC West, Hasselbeck will be the team's starting quarterback. If/when they fall out of the hunt, they will have to see what they have in Whitehurst, who has yet to throw an NFL pass.

If Seattle does make the postseason, it will most likely be due to Hasselbeck's veteran leadership under center. In which case, it would not be a surprise if Seattle re-signed him, kept Whitehurst as the "veteran" backup and drafted Hasselbeck's long-term replacement in 2011 or 2012.

JC: The Seahawks appeared to strengthen their running game by trading for Marshawn Lynch, but then they seem to have weakened their passing game by trading away Deion Branch. What does each move say about the organization, both this season and for the seasons ahead?

BM: Lynch was a player the Seahawks had targeted since March, so acquiring him certainly speaks to the persistence and tenacity of general manager John Schneider to get a player he has viewed as a short- and long-term answer as the big, punishing runner the backfield has needed but lacked this season.

Seattle had laid the groundwork for a Branch trade by signing Brandon Stokley two weeks ago. Stokley played in Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates' system when both were in Denver in 2007-08. In his first game with the Seahawks, Stokley led the team with four receptions for 62 yards while working out of the slot, and Branch's trade will create an opportunity for young receivers Deon Butler, Golden Tate and Ben Obomanu to earn playing time at the flanker position opposite Mike Williams.

JC: Before a resurgence in 2010, Bears fans had grown tired of the Cover-2 defense Lovie Smith employs. As a matter of fact, Chicago is the only team in the league never to have featured the 3-4 as its base system. Has Pete Carroll changed up the scheme much since his arrival?

DT Brandon Mebane
Otto Greule Jr./Getty

BM: Carroll's mentor was Monte Kiffin, who also mentored Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, one of two members of Jim Mora's staff to be retained by Carroll. The other was defensive line coach Dan Quinn, who has overseen the biggest schematic change to the defense this offseason.

Seattle is still a 4-3 team, but there are a lot of 3-4 principles at work, as well. 6-4, 323-pound Red Bryant, a little-used reserve defensive tackle his first two years, was moved to the five-technique end position. Between Bryant, Brandon Mebane – he added the 15 pounds he dropped a season ago – and Colin Cole, the Seahawks have nearly 1,000 pounds worth of run-stuffing beef up front, helping them rank second against the run through five weeks. Opposite Bryant is the "Leo," a defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid spot currently occupied by 240-pound Chris Clemons, who leads the team with four sacks and 11 hits on opposing passers. Strong-side linebacker Aaron Curry gives the defense a five-man front look, and in recent weeks Seattle has been employing zone blitzes, with Curry coming off the edge while Clemons drops into coverage. The Seahawks' secondary is also getting more aggressive, with Lawyer Milloy and Earl Thomas blitzing more and the corners playing more press coverage.

JC: Seattle was one of the most talked about teams during the draft, landing offensive tackle Russell Okung out of Oklahoma State at No. 6 overall and then safety Earl Thomas out of Texas at No. 14. Do both of these guys look like building blocks on their respective side of the ball?

BM: Thomas didn't turn 21 until a few weeks after Seattle drafted him, and he's looking like he'll be a star in the secondary for a long time to come. He's one of two players on defense to not miss a snap this season, and his outstanding instincts, speed and athleticism have led to him picking off three passes through four games, tying him for second in the NFL.

Okung is an impressive physical specimen, and the team certainly expects him to be the anchor on the offensive line for the next decade or so. A high ankle sprain on the opening drive of the second preseason game kept him out until Week 4 of the regular season, but that hasn't dampened the enthusiasm people in Seattle have for him over the long term. He started and played pretty well against the Rams, but soreness in that ankle limited him to just 27 plays. The ankle has had two weeks to get stronger, and Okung is expected to start on Sunday.

JC: Most every team in the NFL is better at home than it is on the road, but the disparity in the way the Seahawks play at Qwest Field as opposed to away from Qwest Field is mind-boggling. Is there any way to explain this logically, and does this bode well for the Bears in Week 6?

BM: When they embark from South Alaska, or "Egypt" as former cornerback Shawn Springs once referred to Seattle, the Seahawks cross at least two time zones when playing road games against 26 of the other 31 teams, including one team in their own division. Yet in its infinite wisdom, the NFL has continued to schedule games involving west-coast teams – Seattle isn't the only team that struggles when traveling east – against eastern or central time zone teams for games that start at 10:00 a.m. PST. It's part of the deal, and the schedule comes out well enough in advance of the actual game that it shouldn't be an issue, but is there any reason, beyond television revenue, why this week's Dallas-Minnesota game is scheduled to start after the Seattle-Chicago game?

Every coach coming into Seattle has to answer "The Road" question, and Carroll is still looking for how they'll handle it under his watch. After flying out the day before games against Denver and St. Louis, the Seahawks are traveling to Chicago on Friday afternoon.

Be on the lookout for III of this Behind Enemy Lines series, where John and Brian make their final predictions, on Friday. To go back and read Part I, where John answered five questions from Brian, Click Here.

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John Crist is the publisher of Brian McIntyre is the editor of Top Stories