A look at four keys for the Bears to beat this week’s opponent.
1. Utilize the short-passing game
The Bears announced Wednesday that Jay Cutler has been cleared to play and will start on Sunday against the Seahawks barring any unforeseen setbacks. After a quarterback has gotten a concussion, each subsequent hit can cause greater damage and you want to limit the amount of punishment he’ll receive. As such, the Bears need to do their best job of getting the ball out of Cutler’s hands as quickly as possible. We know the Bears have had a revolving door on the offensive line and Chris Williams has returned to practice and was moved to the left guard position this week. The Bears can’t fully count on the line to be much better so Mike Martz needs to look to get the ball out of Cutler’s hands quickly. The Seahawks have the No. 2 run defense in the league so the 247 net rushing yards we saw last week against Carolina isn’t likely to happen again. The Seahawks do have the second-worst pass defense so the Bears should have their chances to put up big numbers in that area.
2. Shut down the run
Seattle is fourth-worst in the run game, which is a primary reason why they traded for Buffalo running back Marshawn Lynch last week. Lynch should help upgrade those numbers, but he’s not going to solve the problems the Seahawks have in running the football. Continuing with the trend they’ve displayed in all but the Giants game, the Bears should be able to shut down the Seahawks run and force them to take to the air. Veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has thrown just four touchdown passes compared to six interceptions and has a quarterback rating of 70.7, fifth-worst in the league. The Bears should take their chances with him and stack the box to stop the run and to make the Seahawks throw the ball.
3. Continue getting takeaways
The Bears are ninth in the league with a plus-two turnover ratio as the Lovie Smith defense is winning games using the old formula of getting takeaways. They’re the No. 5-ranked defense with seven interceptions, have forced seven fumbles, and lead the league with seven fumble recoveries. The key number is three. If the Bears can get three takeaways — which is the weekly goal Smith sets for his team — then the Bears’ percentage for winning games increases by leaps and bounds. Of course, the flipside of that equation is that the offense needs to protect the football and not give away the ball.
4. Maintain good field position with special teams
While the offense continues to find its identity, it’s the defense and special teams that have helped them win the majority of their games this season. If not for a stellar defensive effort and the the excellence of Danieal Manning and Devin Hester in the return game, who knows how many games the Bears would have won this year. Manning, in my opinion, is hands-down the best kick returner in the league — although the Bears will face the statistically No. 1 kick returner in Seattle’s Leon Washington this week. It’s up to the Bears’ kick coverage to make sure Washington doesn’t break any — he already has two touchdowns — and it’s up to the Bears’ return team to ensure Manning has the kind of holes he had last week against Carolina when he averaged better than 40 yards per return in his three tries. Meanwhile, Hester still puts the fear in opposing coaches. He had that one punt return touchdown against the Packers and several more long returns that he just couldn’t break for a score, and opposing punters are now kicking the ball straight out of bounds again, giving the Bears’ offense good field position.