GameDay preview: Seahawks at Bears
1. Stop Chicago's running game.
The run defense that was such a strength for Seattle earlier this season has become a real sore spot. The Seahawks didn't allow any of their first six opponents to rush for more than 100 yards, but three of the past five opponents have hit triple digits. For all the attention Bears quarterback Jay Cutler gets, the rushing game is the foundation of Chicago's offense. The Bears have rushed the ball 328 times this season, seventh-most in the league.
2. Get pressure on Jay Cutler.
The Bears have allowed 35 sacks this season, third-most of any team in the league. Chicago's Week 2 loss to Green Bay and Week 10 defeat at San Francisco demonstrated just how a pass rush can decimate Cutler and the Bears' offense. Seattle had only one sack last week, their fewest in any game since Oct. 14. If the Seahawks finish with a single sack again, it's hard to imagine them winning on the road.
3. Don't get too conservative in crunch time.
The Seahawks had the ball, first-and-10 at the Miami 40 on their final possession last week, and coach Pete Carroll clenched his teeth and tried to grit out field-goal position by handing the ball to Robert Turbin, who was tackled for a 1-yard loss, and then a screen pass to Marshawn Lynch, losing 6 yards. Seattle didn't look to go down field, wound up in a hole and had to punt the ball away after Wilson was sacked on third down. The Seahawks would have been better off putting the game in Russell Wilson's hands there at the end, and letting him try to throw Seattle into field-goal range.
Keys to Bears' victory
1. Stop the Seahawks' running attack.
Lynch gained 46 yards on 19 carries last week, his lowest per-carry average this season. The Bears rank No. 8 in rushing defense in the league, but they have allowed three different opponents to rush for more than 100 yards this season.
2. Take the ball away.
The Bears have forced 33 turnovers, the most in the NFL. Seattle didn't commit a turnover last week, the first time this season the Seahawks didn't give away a possession on the road. Wilson has thrown 57 consecutive passes without being intercepted, but knows the importance of holding onto the ball. "I have to do a great job of it to," Wilson said, "same as the rest with the rest of the guys. At the same time you can't play scared."
3. Don't start slow.
The Bears have failed to score in the first quarter of four games this season. They have lost three of those four games. Those three losses are also Chicago's three lowest-scoring games of the season, which means that when the Bears sputter at the start, they usually don't find a way to kick the offense into gear. The Seahawks have scored first in nine of their 11 games this season, which makes it even more imperative the Bears don't lag at the beginning.
Bears WR Brandon Marshall vs. Seattle CBs Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner
Marshall is the Bears' primary target in the passing game, and one of seven receivers in the league who has already surpassed 1,000 yards. At 6 feet 4, 230 pounds Marshall tries to overpower opposing cornerbacks. That plays into the strengths of Seattle's two starting cornerbacks, who love to play physical and are often asked to play one-on-one. "I love one on one coverage so if they're going to do that then it's going to be fun out there," Marshall said. "This is what the NFL is about, man on man. All of this double coverage, triple coverage stuff I don't really respect that or corners that hide behind a system, and these two guys don't hide behind the system."
This is the fourth consecutive regular-season these two teams have played, and Russell Wilson is the fourth different starting quarterback Seattle has used in those games. This is the third consecutive year that Seattle has played at Chicago. The Seahawks have won the past two regular-season meetings though the Bears won the Divisional Playoff matchup in January 2011 in what turned out to be Matt Hasselbeck's final game as a Seahawk.