The Chicago Bears are making things up on the fly. If Brian Iwuh replaces Lance Briggs, who is nursing an ankle injury, at linebacker today, the Bears will have started 37 different players (19 on offense, 18 on defense) in six games.
The Chicago Bears are making things up on the fly.
If Brian Iwuh replaces Lance Briggs, who is nursing an ankle injury, at linebacker today, the Bears will have started 37 different players (19 on offense, 18 on defense) in six games.
“Every week, the lineup has changed to some extent,” offensive coordinator Mike Martz said. “We’re still a work in progress everywhere.”
The Bears have seldom looked good during this storm of injuries and experimentation, but have weathered it in first place.
“This whole offense is going through change,” quarterback Jay Cutler said. “We’re still figuring out what we’re good at, what we need to work on. The good thing is we’re 4-1; we’re winning ballgames while we’re figuring it out.”
Yet for all of Chicago’s changes, the Bears look more stable than ever in comparison to today’s opponent. Seattle (2-2) comes to Soldier Field having made 217 roster moves – enough to field four complete teams – since former USC coach Pete Carroll was hired.
“We’re just trying to get better, but we’ve got a long ways to go,” Carroll said in a conference call.
For veteran Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, the strangest part is not having four-time All-Pro Walter Jones protecting his blind side.
“I don’t think I really understood how good he was,” Hasselbeck said. “I would get on these conference calls and people would ask me about the defensive end on that side and I would fake it like I knew who he was. But we never talked about it. We never had to.”
The Seahawks are certainly talking about Julius Peppers this week.
“He can disrupt your whole game plan,” Hasselbeck said.
As great as Peppers has played in every game, Chicago didn’t get its pass rushing going until last week, when it had five of its nine sacks.
The Bears say that’s just the start.
“You might go four games without a sack and then you will get on a hot streak,” said defensive tackle Tommie Harris, who has only one solo tackle and no sacks in four games. “It’s one of those things; once you get it, then it starts rolling. So they should be coming in.”
Sacks are even more important for Seattle. The Seahawks rank 31st in the NFL in pass defense (302 yards per game). Their best protection against Jay Cutler is a strong rush; the Seahawks are tied for ninth with 11 sacks, despite playing one fewer game than most teams.
“Any time you play a high-powered throwing game, you have to get pressure or they will have their way. They certainly will if we can’t rush them,” Carroll said.
Carroll said the Giants, with their nine first-half sacks of Cutler, showed “how a pass rush can control a football game.” But the Bears also ran for 218 yards last week, so a pass rush alone won’t save Seattle.
“With a quarterback like this and an offense like this, you can’t sit in anything,” Carroll said. “There is no one way to stop them. It’s a combination of ways that you throw at them to keep them off-balance.”
There is also no one-way to view the Bears. What is a team “like this?” Many critics still don’t think the Bears are good.
“You might not, but that doesn’t matter to us,” Cutler said. “We’re 4-1. We’re locked in. Everyone’s good.”
Matt Trowbridge can be reached at 815-987-1383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bears keys to the game
- Take Seattle’s best shot and grab an early lead. “It’s starting to feel like college; when you’re a top team, you get the best shot of everybody,” defensive tackle Tommie Harris said. “We’re looking forward to them coming out, slinging the ball and trying to open up gaps with their offensive line.”
- Protect Jay Cutler. The Bears can’t afford Cutler getting sacked nine times in a half again, as he did in his last start against the Giants before sitting out last week with a concussion. “We’re going to protect Jay better,” coach Lovie Smith promised.
- Don’t get stopped inside the 5-yard-line again. “The goal line has been a real frustration with us,” offensive coordinator Mike Martz said. “This is a new thing. I’m kind of dumbfounded by it, but we’ll address it. That’s got to get resolved.”
- Live up to their defensive hype. The Bears are ranked sixth in the NFL in defense (295.2 yards). “When you talk about great defenses in the NFL, you always talk about Tampa-style defenses, which, ironically, means Chicago these days,” Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “They are tough to run against. They are tough to throw against.”
Prediction: Bears 24, Seahawks 13