These teams have met one time before in the postseason, with the Bears coming through with a hard-fought 27-24 overtime triumph over Seattle in a 2006 NFC Divisional Playoff at Soldier Field, a win that helped propel Chicago to its last Super Bowl appearance.
The Seahawks took an 8-4 lead in their all-time regular-season series with Chicago after the previously-noted Week 6 verdict. Before that victory, Seattle hadn't prevailed at Soldier Field since 1999, dropping a 2006 encounter there in addition to its loss in that year's playoffs.
Smith is 3-2 against the Seahawks in his career and owns a 2-2 lifetime mark in the postseason. Carroll is 2-1 overall against the Bears, including a loss during his tenure with the New York Jets in 1994 and a win while directing the New England Patriots in 1997, and also sports a 2-2 record in the playoffs over the course of his coaching career.
Seattle's win at Soldier Field in mid-October marked the first-ever head-to- head matchup between Smith and Carroll.
WHEN THE SEAHAWKS HAVE THE BALL
Seattle received inspired play last weekend from Hasselbeck (3001 passing yards, 12 TD, 17 INT), who was forced to miss the club's Week 17 division- clinching victory over the Rams due to a hip injury. He even had to have fluid drained from the hip last week, but still set a team playoff record for touchdown passes in a game. Hasselbeck, a veteran of 10 postseason games, has thrown a touchdown pass in nine consecutive playoff tilts and can become just the seventh player in league history to throw one in 10 straight. Seattle averaged just 19.4 points per game during the regular season, but set a franchise playoff best with 41 points last weekend. Tight end John Carlson (31 receptions, 1 TD) didn't do much scoring during the regular season, but caught a pair of touchdown passes versus the Saints. Wide receivers Mike Williams (65 receptions, 2 TD) and Ben Obomanu (30 receptions, 4 TD) both had five receptions last weekend, with Williams hauling in a touchdown pass, while Brandon Stokley (31 receptions) made four catches for a club-high 73 yards with a score. Williams tagged the Bears for 10 catches and 123 yards in the previous meeting. Seattle ranked 31st in the league with an average of just 89.0 yards per game on the ground, but Lynch (737 rushing yards, 6 TD) became the first Seattle player to reach 100 yards in a game this season with his 19- carry, 131-yard performance versus the Saints.
The Bears will try to keep Seattle's newfound run game in check, something they excelled at during the regular season. Though they struggled against the Seahawks back in October, the Bears still ranked second in rushing defense at 90.1 yards per game allowed. Chicago also ranked second in the NFC with 35 takeaways and had three players finish with four-plus interceptions for the first time since 1986. Safety Chris Harris begin_of_the_skype_highlighting end_of_the_skype_highlighting (70 tackles) and cornerback Charles Tillman (82 tackles) led the way with five each, while corner D.J. Moore (42 tackles, 1 sack) had four. Linebacker Brian Urlacher (125 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 INT) reached 100 tackles for the 10th time in his 11-year career and figures to be Lynch's major obstacle, while Seattle will also have to deal with fellow Pro Bowl honoree Lance Briggs (89 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 INT). The linebacker did not play versus Seattle earlier this year due to injury. Chicago did rank 20th versus the pass (224.3 ypg), but Hasselbeck will still have his hands full with defensive ends Israel Idonije (49 tackles) and Julius Peppers (54 tackles, 2 INT). The duo tied for the team lead with eight sacks each, a career high for Idonije. Peppers has two sacks, one interception and a forced fumble in eight career playoff games, while Urlacher has 43 tackles, a sack and a pick in five.
WHEN THE BEARS HAVE THE BALL
Chicago ranked 30th in total offense (289.4 ypg) and 21st in scoring (20.9 ppg) in the regular season, and Cutler, running back Matt Forte, wide receiver Johnny Knox and tight end Greg Olsen will all be making their postseason debuts. Cutler (3274 passing yards, 23 TD, 16 INT) turned in the third-highest season passing yards total in team history, but was picked off six times over Chicago's last four games with six touchdown passes. Typical under a Martz offense, Cutler was also sacked a league-high 52 times. Forte (1069 rushing yards, 51 receptions, 9 total TD) was limited to just 11 yards on eight carries when the Bears last faced the Seahawks, but he joined Hall of Famer Walter Payton as the only Chicago backs with at least 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in a season. Knox (51 receptions, 5 TD), meanwhile, had five catches for 120 yards versus Seattle and tied Forte for the club lead in receptions this season. His five touchdown receptions also matched Olsen (41 receptions) for the team lead, with wideout Devin Hester (40 receptions) adding four. Hester, though, has never caught a pass in the playoffs and Chicago ranked just 28th in passing offense (188.4 ypg) while failing to produce a 1,000-yard receiver.
Seattle both bent and broke last weekend versus the Saints, allowing 474 yards of offense, including 404 passing by New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees. Two of New Orleans' four touchdowns also came on the ground to balance out the attack, not surprising given that the Seahawks ranked 27th in total defense (368.6 ypg) and 25th in scoring defense (25.4 ppg) in the regular season. They'll need a better effort this weekend, similar to the one when they last faced the Bears. Chicago had just 307 yards in that game, while safety Lawyer Milloy (88 tackles, 4 sacks) had two of Seattle's six sacks. Safety Jordan Babineaux (46 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 INT) also had a big game with 1 1/2 sacks and a forced fumble. Linebacker David Hawthorne (106 tackles, 1 INT) was busy versus the Saints, making a team-high nine tackles, while rookie safety Earl Thomas (76 tackles, 5 INT) and cornerback Kelly Jennings (40 tackles) had eight each. Brock (32 tackles, 9 sacks) had Seattle's lone sack versus the Saints and also forced a fumble that Hawthorne recovered. He and fellow defensive end Chris Clemons (49 tackles, 11 sacks) will be counted on to pressure Cutler. Linebacker Lofa Tatupu (88 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) suffered a concussion versus the Saints, but is expected to play this weekend.
Both teams have very dangerous return men, with Leon Washington handling the role for the Seahawks. Washington is the first player in league history to return three kickoffs for a score in two different seasons and was fifth in the NFC with a 25.6 kickoff return average. His seven career kick return touchdowns rank seventh in league history, and he also averaged 11.3 yards per punt return. Punter Jon Ryan ranked seventh in the NFC with 27 punts inside the 20-yard line, including a career-high six versus the Bears earlier this year. Kicker Olindo Mare made good on both of his field goal tries last weekend and went 25-of-30 during the regular season with a long of 51. He added 20 touchbacks on kickoffs.
Equally as dangerous to Washington is Hester, who holds the NFL record with 14 career combined return touchdowns (10 PR, 4 KR) and had a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLI. He averaged 17.1 yards per punt return with three touchdowns and 35.6 per kickoff return in the regular season. Danieal Manning averaged 24.7 yards per kickoff return for Chicago. Kicker Robbie Gould was also 25-of-30 this year on field goal tries with a long of 54, while punter Brad Maynard buried 24 of his 83 kicks inside the 20. Gould is a perfect 6-for-6 on field goal attempts in four playoff games.
The Bears are the #2 seed. The Seahawks got into the playoffs at 7-9. The Bears should have the upper hand, right? If it comes down to experience in the playoffs, the Seahawks definitely have the edge. Matt Hasselbeck has been to the Super Bowl. Bears QB Jay Cutler will be starting his first playoff game. Advantage 'Hawks.
One thing is certain, Jay Cutler is going give the Seattle defense opportunities to intercept passes. It is up to the Seahawks to take advantage of those chances. They will.
Seattle Seahawks 27 - Chicago Bears 24