BY SPNW Staff 04:35PM 12/16/2011

Seahawks Face ‘A Bear With A Bad Tooth’

Marshawn Lynch is on the verge of making a little bit of history, but will have to negotiate the NFL’s 10th-ranked rushing defense in order to do it.

Brian Urlacher anchors a Chicago defense that ranks 10th in the NFL against the rush, Seattle's strong offensive suit. / Wiki Commons

GAME: Seahawks (6-7) at Bears (7-6). WHEN: Sunday, 10 a.m., Soldier Field. MEETING: 13th (Seahawks lead 8-4). LINE: Bears by 3 1/2. TV: FOX. RADIO: ESPN-710.

Since re-committing to the ground game during Week 9 in Dallas (Nov. 6), the Seahawks have put together six consecutive 100-yard rushing games, the longest streak since the 1996 season when that year’s team amassed seven in a row.

Since Week 9, Seattle ranks No. 2 in the NFL in rushing yards with 850. Denver is first with 1,150. But in the Chicago Bears,  the Seahawks will be facing the league’s 10th-ranked team on defense against the rush. The Bears enter the contest on a three-game losing streak (lost last week in OT to Denver), a fact that has Pete Carroll’s attention.

“I don’t know if there’s anything worse than a bear with a bad tooth,” Carroll said. “These guys are going to be jacked up to get going. They’re in transition. They’ve had to move through big switches with the quarterback first, and then with Matt Forte at the tailback spot. He has a chance to come back, which would be a big boost for them.” Forte probably won’t play due to an MCL sprain.

“But they’re so talented, and they have so many weapons and they can beat you so many different ways. They were so close last week to getting that win. It’s going to be very difficult at their place.

“We’re going to have to play really well to be in this game. They still play great defense. They run really well and with great commitment. They’ve been a little bit quieter in the throwing game because Jay Cutler (out with a broken thumb) is such a great player, but (Caleb) Hanie is doing his thing and they’re getting it together.”

Marshawn Lynch scored a touchdown (9 rushing, 1 receiving) in nine consecutive games, matching the franchise record set by Shaun Alexander in 2005. In his past six games, Lynch is averaging 117.6 yards and now has 969 yards for the season (the Seahawks have not had a 1,000-yard rusher since Alexander in 2005).

“We’ve just watched him (Lynch) add to his intensity and become a big part of what we’re all about,” Carroll said. “Nobody is playing better than him right now.”

“He’s just a great player, number one,” Chicago coach Lovie Smith said of Lynch. “He just plays hard. He’s so aggressive running the football. When you have a player like that at the running back position and you’re a running team and you’re trying to establish the run each week you want a competitor like him carrying the ball. Just a great running back. He’s made quite a few of the highlight reels with second-effort plays. That’s what’s impressive about him is after he’s come in contact with a defender — most of the time that first guy doesn’t get him down.”

With Cutler out with a broken thumb on his passing hand, the Bears will go with Caleb Hanie at quarterback. In three starts, Hanie has completed 41 of 79 passes for 502 yards and two touchdowns with six interceptions. His passer rating: 48.6.

RIVALRY: The Seahawks have a 4-2 record at Soldier Field. Seattle won two of its past three meetings with Chicago. Seattle’s longest winning streak against Chicago is four games (1978-87). The Bears have never beaten the Seahawks in back-to-back games. In the 12 games, Chicago has outscored Seattle 259-246. Only one shutout has occurred in the series, that Sept. 9, 1990, when the Bears won 17-0.

LAST REGULAR SEASON MEETING (Oct. 17, 2010): The Bears entered the game at Soldier Field boasting the NFL’s best record at 4-1 and took an early 7-0 lead. But the Seahawks battled back with a 22-yard TD pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Deon Butler, a Justin Forsett 9-yard TD run, a safety and a 1-yard TD run by Lynch. Devin Hester of the Bears enlivened the Soldier Field crowd by returning Jon Ryan’s 10th punt of the day 89 yards for a TD with 1:54 remaining.

LAST GAME (Seahawks, Dec. 12): Doug Baldwin, an undrafted rookie from Stanford, blocked a punt that Michael Robinson returned 17 yards for a touchdown, and later caught a 29-yard TD pass as the Seahawks recorded a 30-13 win over the St. Louis Rams. Lynch rushed for 115 yards and a scored a TD for the ninth straight game as the Seahawks won for the fourth time in five games.

LAST GAME (Bears, Dec. 11): Matt Prater kicked a 51-yard field goal 6 1/2 minutes into overtime, giving the Denver Broncos a 13-10 victory over Chicago, running the Bears’ losing streak to three.

COACHES: Pete Carroll is in his second season as head coach of the Seahawks. In 2010, he directed Seattle to the NFC West title, the Seahawks becoming the first team in NFL history to win a division with a losing (7-9) record. Prior to joining the Seahawks, Carroll served as head coach at Southern California, where his Trojans won two  national championships and seven Pac-10 titles.

Lovie Smith is in his seventh season as head coach of the Bears. Smith has coached 60 victories in Chicago, third most in franchise history behind George Halas and Mike Ditka. The NFL Coach of the Year in 2005, Smith came to the Bears after serving as defensive coordinator for the Rams (2001-03) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1996-00).

SEAHAWKS STATS/NOTES: The Seahawks have placed 13 players on injured reserve . . . Seahawks rank 27th in total offense (303.2), 20th in rushing offense (107.2), 24th in passing offense (195.9) and 25th in scoring (18.9). Defensively, Seattle ranks 13th in total defense (335.2), 11th in rushing defense (104.3), 14th in pass defense (230.8) and 10th in points allowed (19.9) . . . The Seahawks have allowed just nine second-half touchdowns, second fewest in the NFL (Cleveland has allowed seven).

BEARS STATS/NOTES: Bears reserve wide receiver Sam Hurd was arrested Wednesday on federal charges of attempting to create a drug-sales ring in the Chicago area. Hurd caught eight passes for 109 yards and was a key player on special teams. The Bears waived him Friday, just before he was released from jail on $100,000 bail . . .   Bears WR/KR Devin Hester was listed as questionable with a sore knee. Hester holds the NFL career record for combined special teams return touchdowns with 18 (12 punts, 5 kickoffs, 1 missed field goal) . . .  Bears rank 21st in total offense (319.6), 9th in rushing offense (122.5), 23rd in passing offense (197.2) and 13th in scoring (23.3). Defensively, the Bears rank 20th in total defense (358.2), 10th in rushing defense (101.7), 28th in pass defense (256.5) and 9th in points allowed (19.6) . . . The injured Matt Forte leads the Chicago running attack with 997 yards, a 4.9-yard average per carry and three touchdowns . . .

Art Thiel

ART THIEL’S TAKE: Bears were rocked with the arrest of Hurd, 26, described as pious, polite and a good teammate. Hard to say what impact it will have, but it’s not as if the team is going to rally in his dubious honor. Then again, it is Chicago, where as the former state governor showed, almost anything goes.

More to the point is that backup QB Hanie is terrible, and the Seahawks defense will force him into mistakes. The Bears will be loaded for Lynch, which means that QB Jackson will have to take on more of the offense. If he stays safe with the passing game, the Seahawks will be .500, an amazing feat this season. Seahawks 16, Bears 10.


Steve Rudman

STEVE RUDMAN’S TAKE: Given that the Bears are banged up offensively and will be starting a quarterback with a 48.6 passer rating, I don’t see Chicago scoring much. But the Seahawks won’t score much against the Bears, either.

The key for Seattle is the degree to which Lynch can negotiate Chicago’s 10th-ranked run defense. Although Lynch has rushed for more than 100 yards in five of his past six games, Chicago’s will be the best run defense he’s faced in more than a month.

I share Carroll’s concern that the Bears have lost three in a row, and will be roused to action. Trouble is, the Bears will be without two of their most potent offensive weapons. Still, the game is at Soldier Field. Bears 17, Seahawks 14.

COMING UP: the Seahawks return to CenturyLink Field to take on the San Francisco 49ers (Dec. 24, 1:15 p.m.). Seattle concludes its 2011 regular season with a Jan. 1, 2012 game at Arizona.

2011 Seahawks Schedule/Results

Date Opponent Time TV W/L Score Rec.
9/11/11 at San Francisco 1:15 p.m. FOX L 33-17 0-1
9/18/11 at Pittsburgh 10 a.m. FOX L 24-0 0-2
9/25/11 vs. Arizona 1:15 p.m. FOX W 13-10 1-2
10/2/11 vs. Atlanta 1:05 p.m. FOX L 30-28 1-3
10/9/11 at N.Y. Giants 10 a.m. FOX W 36-25 2-3
10/16/11 Bye week
10/23/11 at Cleveland 10 a.m. FOX L 6-3 2-4
10/30/11 vs. Cincinnati 1:15 p.m. CBS L 34-12 2-5
11/6/11 at Dallas 10 a.m. FOX L 23-13 2-6
11/13/11 vs. Baltimore 1:05 p.m. CBS W 22-17 3-6
11/20/11 at St. Louis 1:05 p.m. FOX W 24-7 4-6
11/27/11 vs. Washington 1:05 p.m. FOX L 23-17 4-7
12/1/11 vs. Philadelphia 5:20 p.m. NFLN W 31-14 5-7
12/12/11 vs. St. Louis 5:30 p.m. ESPN W 30-13 6-7
12/18/11 at Chicago 10 a.m. FOX
12/24/11 vs. San Francisco 1:15 p.m. FOX
1/1/12 at Arizona 1:15 p.m. FOX

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