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NFL Playoff Preview: Seahawks Look To Shock The World Again

 

The Seattle Seahawks, the first team to win a division with a losing record, showed last Saturday the ultimate example of "any given Sunday."

Heavy underdogs for a second straight weekend, the Seahawks will try to pick up their first road postseason win since 1983 and pull off another upset as they visit the second-seeded Chicago Bears this Sunday in an NFC Divisional Playoff at Soldier Field.

Few felt the Seahawks belonged in the postseason, much less deserved a fourth seed and opening-round home game, after they won the NFC West with just a 7-9 mark. That set Seattle up for a meeting with the defending champion New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card Round, with the Seahawks considered double-digit underdogs.

However, behind four touchdown passes by quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and an amazing game-clinching 67-yard scoring run by Marshawn Lynch late in the game -- in which the running back busted through at least six tackles -- the Seahawks knocked off the Saints, 41-36, for their fifth straight playoff victory at Qwest Field.

Seattle rallied from a pair of early 10-point deficits with a 27-3 run that began early in the second quarter and stretched through the third. That made the Seahawks the first team to defeat a defending champion in the postseason after trailing by 10 or more points.

"We don't really worry about what other people say," Seahawks defensive end Raheem Brock said. "We believe in each other and we just want to go out there and play like we know we can play. If we keep winning games, we'll get more believers. It's really up to us."

Things don't get any easier now for the Seahawks, who have lost seven straight road playoff tests since winning their first and only postseason game as the guest on Dec. 31, 1983 at Miami. Head coach Pete Carroll will also have to make sure his team isn't still caught up in last weekend's victory.

"Last week is gone, forgotten for us and our focus is truly on what's going on right now," said Carroll.

Seattle, though, does own a victory in Chicago already this season, a 23-20 win that came right after the Seahawks' bye and was their only one versus a playoff-bound team during the regular season.

With the extra week to prepare, the Seahawks sacked Bears quarterback Jay Cutler six times and Chicago went 0-for-12 on converting third downs. Offensively, Lynch and Justin Forsett combined for 111 rushing yards and both running backs found the end zone.

Chicago gave up a pair of long touchdown drives in that loss and did not record a sack or a takeaway. The Bears come into this rematch healthy and fresh, while Cutler thinks the extra week will benefit the club, especially when it gives offensive coordinator Mike Martz some extra time to scheme.

"He gets a better feel for what [the opponents] are going to do in certain situations, which in turn gives him an advantage in calling plays," Cutler said. "In third down, in red zone, on second and long, he can see things and he can dial some stuff up that he might be hesitant to call if he hasn't seen enough film on them or if they are doing a lot different stuff."

Chicago won five of its final seven regular-season games to win its third NFC North title under head coach Lovie Smith, but did lose a 10-3 matchup to Green Bay in Week 17. Smith will hope this weekend for a better result than that meaningless finale or the one his team put up against Seattle earlier.

"When you play someone again for the second time and you know each other fairly well, you want to of course add a few things, which both of us will do," Smith said of the rematch. "But as much as anything, just try to execute a little bit better than we did the first time around."

Chicago is back in the postseason for the first time since 2006, a run that ended with a Super Bowl loss to Indianapolis.

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.