The sarcastic giggles and rolling eyes have ceased to exist in Seattle, where hope suddenly springs eternal after the Seahawks’ undeniably impressive 41-36 wild-card victory over the defending Super Bowl-champion Saints last Saturday at Qwest Field. For a lot of different reasons, Pete Carroll’s Seahawks have become a far different team the past two weeks. after looking mostly lousy in losing seven of their previous nine games.
While most league observers remained more than a little skeptical following Seattle’s prime-time, playoff-clinching victory over a Rams team with its share of significant shortcomings, well-deserved praise has been the order of the day following their stunning victory over the Saints. Can the Seahawks possibly pull of the unthinkable as 9½-point underdogs this Sunday in a rematch against a Bears team they actually beat rather convincingly back in Week Six? After what they pulled off against the Saints, displaying tremendous fire and energy on both sides of the ball, stranger things can certainly happen.
The PFW Spin
I am writing the following sentence with a completely straight face: If the Seahawks beat the Bears this Sunday and the Packers beat the Falcons the night before in Atlanta, Seattle will host the NFC championship game at Qwest Field two weeks from now. Exactly one week ago, there wasn’t a football commentator anywhere I know of on this universe that thought the Seahawks had a snowball’s chance in hell of beating the Saints. I said as much in print, and I paid the price, receiving feedback from a few PFW readers (who I suspect were also very loyal Seahawks fans) who said I should be ashamed of myself. To them I say: “Touché”
With the Seahawks seeming so miscast a week ago at this time, entering the postseason as the biggest home underdog in league history, I couldn’t stop coming up with reasons why I believed they would be one and done after a likely dismantling by Drew Brees and the Saints.
But when a team does what the Seahawks did Saturday, it behooves chroniclers like me to go out of our way to give them the benefit of the doubt as much as possible. When a team pulls off an upset like the one the Seahawks pulled off, the objective changes from ripping them like there’s no tomorrow to finding legitimate reasons why they might be in position to pull off a second consecutive stunner.
For starters, as I’ve already indicated, the Seahawks already cleaned the Bears’ clocks once this season. The score was 23-20, but the game wasn’t nearly as close as the score would indicate. I will say that the Bears appear to be a much better team at the moment than they were back in Week Six, when offensive coordinator Mike Martz was still stuck in a pass-happy mode before coming to his senses and incorporating the run game more into the mix. That said, the Bears have been ridiculously lucky this season. Their offense is ranked 30th in yards gained. Their defense is ranked 20th against the pass. Their offensive line, which surrendered six sacks in the first meeting with Seattle, is still extremely vulnerable.
Did I mention that Bears QB Jay Cutler will be making his first playoff start, whereas Matt Hasselbeck, who had a game for the ages against New Orleans, will be making his 11th postseason start? Did you know that QBs making their first start in the playoffs since 2003 have a 5-19 record? You do now.
I leave you with one last thought regarding the Seahawks’ chances. The Bears definitely could be in a world of trouble if Marshawn Lynch marches into Chi-town with the same kind of mo-jo he displayed against the Saints. Lynch proved how much of a one-man wrecking crew he can be with his 67-yard TD run against the Saints that was one of the best runs in playoff history. Memo to Bears LBs Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs: beware.