Saturday, September 26, 2009
I was watching a pretty cool show on Sunday night, must have been on NFL Network or something. It was all about this new stadium in Arlington, Texas. Seats over 100,000 people, has a ridiculously huge scoreboard, cost over $1 billion. They just went on and on about it, interviewing the guy who paid for it, talking about how much it means to the team that plays there, exploring the ins and outs of the place. Good show, but it went on for too long. The thing was over three hours! And they picked a strange time to film the show, right when a football game was going on. I kept getting distracted by the action on the field, but the producers did a good job of focusing in on the stadium, the stadium, the stadium. It was good stuff, but I sure wish I could have seen that football game ...
Bears vs. Seahawks preview
The Seahawks won just four games last year, but were riddled with injuries. With Julius Jones at tailback, new addition T.J. Houshmandzadeh (he of Madden boycott fame) at wideout, and another legit receiving threat in former Viking Nate Burleson, the offense can put up some points. Additionally, Deion Branch should be ready to go after missing the first to games. The Bears will need to watch the middle of the field as well, as tight end John Carlson leads the team in receptions and yards.
Seattle pounded the dreadfully awful St. Louis Rams 28-0 in Week 1, but then faltered in San Francisco with a 23-10 loss. But most importantly: Matt Hasselbeck suffered a broken rib in the loss, and it is "extremely unlikely" that he will play against the Bears.
There's no doubt that the expectations for this game hinge on Hasselbeck's status--if Seneca Wallace gets the start, this becomes a game the Bears have to win. Wallace played eight games in place of Hasselbeck last year, and the team went 3-5. His QB rating of 87 was by no means awful, but with the Bears already favored by the sportsbooks, it would be very disappointing to see them lose with Wallace taking all the snaps.
That said, Qwest Field is no picnic for opposing teams. With their famed "12th man" crowd, communication is often an issue and things can get sticky in the red zone. Though Cutler and his receivers--especially Johnny Knox--appeared to be much more in sync last week, it's certainly not ideal for them to be playing in one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL.
For the Bears, Alex Brown, who had two sacks against Pittsburgh, should be ready to go on Sunday. As I write this, it appears that Desmond Clark and Pisa Tinoisamoa probably won't be rushed back to action this Sunday.
Keys to the Game
Something's gotta give. The Bears are ranked 31st in rush offense, while the Seahawks are ranked 26th in rush defense. Matt Forte had six games last year in which he rushed for more yards than he has in his first two games total (84). But Seattle was gored, literally, by Frank Gore and the Niners last week: 207 yards for the San Francisco star, including TD runs of 79 and 80 yards. The noise at Qwest Field sometimes makes running the ball the safer bet, and the Bears need to get their running game going to keep the Seahawks' pass rush at bay. If Forte is going to get going at some point, this would be a good time to do it.
Penalties. Courtesy of ESPN's Jeff Dickerson, Qwest Field has seen visiting teams commit an average of 2.49 false start penalties per game since 2005. The Bears had 10 penalties for 80 yards against Pittsburgh, and though they pulled out a close victory in that one, it'd be best not to shoot themselves in the foot like that on the road.
Greg Olsen. Everyone was talking about the impeccable chemistry between Cutler and Olsen during the preseason. And while Olsen caught three balls for 41 yards last Sunday, we haven't really seen them get locked in yet. With linebacker Leroy Hill out for Seattle, look for Olsen to have that big game we've been waiting for.
Taking advantage of injuries. While the Bears will be missing some key players on defense, the Seahawks will be missing their left tackle, Sean Locklear, as well as cornerback Josh Wilson. Middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu's status is up in the air as well.
Where'd he come from?
QB Matt Hasselbeck, Boston College
RB Julius Jones, Notre Dame
Lofa Tatupu, USC
TE John Carlson, Notre Dame
P Jon Ryan, Regina (Canada)