When: Sunday, 10 a.m. PST, Soldier Field, Chicago
What: NFC divisional playoff game between the NFC North champion Bears, the No. 2 seed; and the NFC West champion Seahawks, the No. 4 seed.
What’s at stake: The winner advances to the NFC Championship game, and will travel to Atlanta to face the top-seeded Falcons or host the Green Bay Packers depending on which team wins the other divisional game on Saturday night.
Records: Seahawks 7-9 in the regular season, 1-0 in the playoffs; Bears 11-5 in the regular season, had a bye last weekend.
TV: KCPQ/13, with Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnson and Tony Siragusa
Radio: 97.3 FM and 710 ESPN, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller; and Westwood One, with Kevin Kugler, Mark Malone and Hub Arkush
Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck vs. Bears MLB Brian Urlacher: Here we go again, with the pre-snap games within the game that are always so entertaining – and vital – when Hasselbeck and Urlacher matchup. Hasselbeck will step to the line and check to a play depending on what Urlacher is showing. That prompts Urlacher to check to another defensive alignment, and Hasselbeck to check out of his check. And so on and so. But this is more than mind games. If the Seahawks, and Hasselbeck, are to have success, they will have to “beat” Urlacher. Especially on the quick throws to leading receiver Mike Williams (65 catches) and slot receiver Brandon Stokley (25 of his 31 receptions have produced first downs). Especially if they want to unleash the Beast by running Marshawn Lynch between the tackles.
One to watch
Seahawks LT Russell Okung vs. Bears DE Julius Peppers: In the Week 6 game, Okung not only started and finished his first NFL game, the rookie held Peppers without a sack and limited the Bears’ big free-agent acquisition to two tackles – one solo, one assist. Okung got some help at times, but even in his one-on-one matchups, he got the best of one of the best pass-rushers in the game. That’s all Peppers has been hearing all week, so Okung will have to be at his best – again – against a player who had eight sacks during the regular season and led the Bears linemen with 50 tackles.
Fun to watch
Bears OTs Frank Omiyale and J’Marcus Webb vs. Seahawks DEs Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock: Pressuring Bears QB Jay Cutler will be a key if the Seahawks are to pull the upset. In the Week 6 game, they registered a season-high six sacks, and most came on blitzes – two from Lawyer Milloy, 1½ from Jordan Babineaux, one from Aaron Curry. Since defensive coordinator Gus Bradley started using Clemons and Brock in tandem, rather than rotating them at the “Leo” spot, the Seahawks have generated pressure – and sacks – the old-fashioned way. Clemons had 11 sacks during the regular season, while Brock had nine and added another in the wild-card win over the Saints.
One tough task
The Seahawks. They are the underdog for a reason. They were 2-6 on the road during the regular season, with the first win coming in Week 6 against the Bears. They have not won a playoff game on the road since upsetting the Dolphins in Miami after the 1983 season – a victory that sent them to the AFC Championship game. But that also can play into the Seahawks’ favor, if they can come out and play loose. The Seahawks have nothing to lose in this game, because no one expected them to be in this game. The pressure rests squarely on the Bears.
The Seahawks lead the series 8-5, including playoffs, and have won four of the past seven games, including their 23-20 win in Week 6. … The Seahawks’ 41 points in last week’s win over the Saints were a franchise playoff record and the most ever scored in a postseason game against the defending Super Bowl champions. … Hasselbeck has thrown a TD pass in nine consecutive playoff games and can become the seventh QB in NFL history to do it in 10 games in a row. … Williams caught 10 passes for 123 yards in the Week 6 game against the Bears. … The Seahawks’ Leon Washington returned three kickoffs for touchdowns this season, while the Bears’ Devin Hester returned three punts for TDs. Hester has an NFL-record 14 kickoff and punt returns for scores in his career. … Cutler will be making his first start in the playoffs, and since 2003 first-time starters are 5-19. … Cutler also is the first Bears QB to pass for 3,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. … Bears RB Matt Forte had 1,616 yards rushing (1,069) and receiving (547), joining Walter Payton as the only Bear with 1,000-plus yards rushing and 500-plus receiving in the same season. … Urlacher led the Bears with 146 tackles, surpassing 100-plus for the 10th time in his 11-year career. … LB David Hawthorne was the Seahawks’ leading tackler (105) during the regular season and also against the Saints (nine). … Since 2004, Lovie Smith’s first as coach, the Bears lead the league with 235 takeaways (137 interceptions, 98 fumble recoveries). They had 35 takeaways this season and are plus-4 in turnover ratio; while the Seahawks are minus-9.