CHICAGO - Hands down, the funniest question of the week came when coach Pete Carroll was asked if he worried about the Sea-hawks being overconfident heading into today's playoff game against the Bears.
Very little flusters Carroll in press conferences, where he generally responds with rapid-fire rhetoric. But it seemed to take a second for him to decide if the question was on the level. Overconfident? After a 7-9 regular season? After getting blown out in most of those losses?
“Oh, man, no,” he said. “Have you watched our season? The last thing we’re going to be is overconfident.”
But one of the bigger problems the Sea-hawks face today is that the Bears are very unlikely to be overconfident either.
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The Hawks’ upset win over New Orleans last week was aided by some factors outside the normal keys of blocking and tackling and scheming. The Saints had handled the Sea-hawks easily at home during the regular season and, after all, were defending Super Bowl champions. On some plays, it seemed obvious that the Seahawks were more motivated.
The Bears, however, were defeated – at home, no less – by the Seahawks in October. In fact, Seattle had surprisingly easy control of the game on the Bears’ home turf.
“They have a losing record?” Bears coach Lovie Smith asked this week. “I don’t see it like that; I see that they’re undefeated right now. They’re 1-0 in the playoffs and that’s how we’re looking at it.”
When he was asked about the loss to the Hawks, Smith made it clear that it was a distasteful afternoon that the Bears have not forgotten.
So, the Seahawks’ hopes of defeating the Bears and advancing to the NFC Championship Game are largely reliant on their emotional approach.
Receiver Mike Williams summed it up: “Obviously they’re playing harder, and with us winning, they’re going to play us a lot tougher. And with the revenge factor, we just have to match their intensity.”
That is especially crucial for Williams, who had 10 catches for 123 yards in the first meeting. Whereas Williams and other Seattle receivers got deep with double moves against the Saints, the Bears’ two-deep zone offers other areas to exploit.
With middle linebacker Brian Urlacher so adept at dropping into the deep third of the zone, Williams and Brandon Stokley should have better luck with high-percentage underneath routes.
But that will not surprise the Bears, nor will the Sea-hawks’ revived rushing attack. Asked what he saw from the video of Marshawn Lynch’s 67-yard scoring run against New Orleans, Urlacher responded: “A lot of missed tackles.”
Maybe everything Urlacher says sounds menacing, but his stern tone with his response was clear the Bears are intent to not appear on highlight shows surrendering any runs like that to Lynch today.
The Bears have forced a remarkable 37 fumbles this season, and we may presume that Lynch will receive special attention. Both sides contend that turnovers will be the determining factor.
Just as likely, a big return by the Bears’ Devin Hester or Seattle’s Leon Washington can swing the momentum.
And while everyone thought it was laughable that the Seahawks would be asked about overconfidence, it’s obvious that the team is, at the least, confident.
“I think in sports you can get in a slump and you can get hot,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “I feel like we’re getting in a rhythm; I think we’re getting hot right now getting hot at the right time.”
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 firstname.lastname@example.org