With a win today in the Windy City against the Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll can match his team’s win total from last season and continue to chase faint hopes of making the playoffs for a second season in a row.
Carroll’s Seahawks play in Solider Field for the third time in a little more than a year – the same place they fell behind last January in the NFC Divisional playoffs 28-0 and ultimately lost, 35-24, to a team they had beaten three months earlier in the regular season.
But these young Seahawks – winners of four of their past five – are confident heading into their second-to-last road game of this season.
The Bears are dealing with a slew of off-the-field issues, including the arrest of former teammate Sam Hurd on drug trafficking charges and the absence of offensive playmakers quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte due to injuries.
“I don’t know if there’s anything worse than a bear with a bad tooth,” Carroll said earlier this week, when asked about playing a talented Chicago team on the road. “We know that these guys are ready for it and it’s going to be very difficult at their place. Fortunately, we feel familiar with this travel and this trip and the setting and all of that and hopefully that will allow us to get close to playing our best. We’re going to have to play really well to be in this football game with these guys.”
One reason for the Seahawks’ confidence is they are finally winning games with the blueprint that Carroll touted when he took over the team – a ball-control offense paced by a physical running game and a defense that forces turnovers and plays with an edge.
The Seahawks have rushed for over 100 yards in six consecutive games, with Marshawn Lynch rushing over 100 yards in five of six. Defensively, the Seahawks have forced 13 turnovers in the past five games.
But the game against Chicago could hinge on the Seahawks’ ability to protect quarterback Tarvaris Jackson with a makeshift offensive line. Journeyman Paul McQuistan will get his second start at left tackle, and second-year pro Lemuel Jeanpierre will get his second start at right guard.
Seattle’s line faces the daunting task of blocking perennial Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers. The North Carolina product leads the Bears with nine sacks and will pose a matchup problem for Seattle’s banged-up offensive line.
“I think he’s one of the best, I really do,” Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “He’s still playing at a high level even after the years he’s been in the league. He really presents a big-time problem.
“You can turn on the tape and see him being blocked by one guy and him beating that guy. You’ll see him being blocked by two guys and you’ll see him beating both of them. Then they also move him around, so he’s on one side and then the other and then he’s inside, so they do a good job of mixing it up.”
So how do you stop Peppers?