Never mind that the Bears haven't won a playoff game since 1994, or that the Seahawks are the defending NFC champs. Chicago clearly enjoyed the superior season, posting a 13-3 record despite up-and-down play from quarterback Rex Grossman. The Bears hammered Seattle, 37-6, when these teams met at Soldier Field on Oct. 1.
Seattle, meanwhile, lost three of its final four games on its way to a 9-7 record. The Seahawks started to play better in the last two regular-season games, but they had to overcome severe personnel deficiencies to beat Dallas last week.
Coach Mike Holmgren doesn't mind slipping under the radar, though. "It's been a good thing for the teams I've coached," Holmgren said of the underdog role, "particularly if you're confident in what you're doing and you have to be playing well."
Much of the focus has been on what the Cowboys did wrong, not what the Seahawks did right. That was natural after Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo fumbled the field-goal snap with his team trailing by a point in the final two minutes. Still, Holmgren noticed.
"Even after our game with Dallas, there didn't appear to be much about the Seahawks on television nationally," Holmgren said. "It was about the snap or T.O. (Terrell Owens) coming back.
"One side of me, I say, 'That's too bad, because we played a good game.' But the other side says, 'It's OK to be under the radar.'"
--The Seahawks' special teams appear to be functioning a bit better with special teams coach Bob Casullo positioned in the press box during games. Coach Mike Holmgren made the move after Seattle got burned by a fake punt against the 49ers.
"I didn't think we were seeing the whole picture well enough from the field," Holmgren said. "Things were happening in a game and I couldn't get answers immediately on the field. The last few games, I think it's working out better."
John Jamison, the assistant special-teams coach, has remained on the sideline. Jamison stays in communication with Casullo over a headset. Holmgren joked that it cuts down on how much he yells at Casullo.
"John was in my wedding," Holmgren said of Jamison. "I don't yell at him. Now I can get info from Bob and it's much quicker, it's more precise, it's working better." Seattle's special teams are suffering from personnel problems brought about by injuries.
--Reports suggest the Seahawks are among the teams under consideration to play a regular-season game in Europe. Seattle is already scheduled to play a 2007 exhibition game in Beijing. Holmgren said he'd much rather play a regular-season game at Qwest Field. The reports didn't say exactly when Seattle might play in Europe. Holmgren is thinking later sounds better than sooner.
"I'll be on the porch having a pina colada when they travel for that one," he quipped.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--WR Darrell Jackson is expected to play against the Bears on Sunday, according to coach Mike Holmgren. Jackson aggravated a toe injury in the wild card game, but he was feeling better Monday.
--WR D.J. Hackett could miss the game against Chicago on Sunday after suffering an ankle injury against the Cowboys.
--FS John Howell will miss the Chicago game after suffering a hamstring injury against the Cowboys. Howell missed the end of last season with a hamstring injury. The team re-signed him last week to help provide needed depth, but his hamstring lasted only one game.
--QB Matt Hasselbeck is a very good quarterback who has a chance to be "great" if he stops forcing things in certain situations, coach Mike Holmgren said Monday. Hasselbeck tossed two interceptions against the Cowboys in the wild card game. His two second-half touchdown passes helped Seattle prevail, but the Seahawks expect him to avoid some of the mistakes that have cropped up this season amid injuries to other offensive players.
--RG Chris Gray is expected to play against the Bears, coach Mike Holmgren said. Gray has a thigh injury.
REPORT CARD VS. COWBOYS:
PASSING OFFENSE: C-plus -- The protection wasn't very good even though the Cowboys failed to get a sack. QB Matt Hasselbeck took a few hits early in the game and his play wasn't as good as a result. He tossed two interceptions. The shuffling personnel at receiver robbed the offense of rhythm. Hasselbeck and TE Jerramy Stevens did step it up in the second half. Stevens' two touchdown receptions wound up being the difference in the game.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- Seattle did not run the ball very effectively for much of the game. The team was stopped on its final three third-and-1 runs, continuing a recent trend. RB Shaun Alexander did run hard, but there wasn't much there. His 20-yard run up the middle against a stacked front helped secure the victory.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Seahawks were effective against QB Tony Romo and WR Terrell Owens even though the defense was severely undermanned. Romo's problems with accuracy early in the game helped. CB Pete Hunter played more than 15 snaps less than a week after Seattle signed him off the street. Owens finished the game with two catches for 26 yards. Seattle did not allow the deep ball, in part because the Cowboys did not try very many.
RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Seattle tackled well for much of the game, but Cowboys RB Julius Jones did break free for a 35-yard run late in the game. The run helped the Cowboys move into position for a potential go-ahead field goal. Seattle is undersized on defense and can't afford assignment breakdowns. This was a pretty good effort under the circumstances. The Cowboys tried to pound the ball, but they didn't control the clock in the bigger picture.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Seattle's injury-depleted coverage units have become increasingly vulnerable. The Seahawks allowed a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that was nearly the difference in the game. Roughly half the coverage team wasn't even on the roster when training camp started, and a couple weren't on the team even a week or two ago. Snapper Derek Rackley also had a couple of shaky punt snaps, while K Josh Brown wasn't as deep as usual on his kickoffs. On the positive side, P Ryan Plackemeier did an excellent job rescuing snaps, and his late punt helped prevent the Cowboys from getting a second chance at the go-ahead field goal.
COACHING: A -- Defensive coordinator John Marshall and his staff deserve high marks for containing the NFL's fifth-ranked offense. The Cowboys finished with 284 yards, their lowest total since the season opener. Defensive backs coaches Teryl Austin and Larry Marmie made the most of a nearly impossible situation. They had four days to get Hunter ready to be the nickel corner. Hunter was in position to make tackles. He even recovered a fumble. The offensive plan suffered a bit because Hasselbeck wasn't at his best. Mike Holmgren scaled back some things, notably when he handed off on third-and-7 in the red zone.