Bears won’t have easy time against Seattle’s formidable ‘D’
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org November 28, 2012 10:56PM
The Chicago Bears Jay Cutler signals his offense during their game against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field in Chicago on Sunday, November 25, 2012. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 30, 2012 3:55PM
The Bears’ offense appeared to catch a break when news broke Sunday that Seahawks starting cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner — key cogs in Seattle’s third-ranked defense —faced four-game suspensions for violating NFL rules on performance-enhancing drugs.
But both are expected to play Sunday at Soldier Field because their appeals won’t be ruled on this week.
Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall is thrilled that he’ll face the Seahawks’ towering corners.
“I’m excited about this matchup; I’m happy that they are playing, really excited they are playing,” Marshall said of Sherman and Browner, who are 6-3 and 6-4, respectively. “That’s good for the game, and I’m ready to compete.”
This might be a case of be careful what you wish for.
While he already has topped 1,000 receiving yards, Marshall was largely negated in the Bears’ three losses. He had two catches for 24 yards against the Packers and two catches for 21 yards against the 49ers. Marshall had eight receptions for 107 yards against the Texans but only two catches for 21 yards in the first half of the 13-6 loss.
One of the Seahawks’ top offseason priorities was to improve their pass rush, and they accomplished that goal by spending their first-round pick on Bruce Irvin and acquiring free agent James Jones. The Seahawks have nine more sacks than they did at this point last season, and they’re tied for ninth in the NFL with 29.
That’s daunting for the Bears, considering they’ve lost two of three at Soldier Field to the Seahawks since 2010 and are fielding a patchwork offensive line.
“We have to control the line of scrimmage as an offensive line,” said veteran offensive tackle Jonathan Scott, who will be making his second start for the Bears. “If we control the line of scrimmage, we’ll be able to do things with our offense that create big plays and put points on the board.”
The Bears are 11th in points per game, but they’ve gotten seven touchdowns from the defense and one from special teams.
After rough games against the Texans and 49ers, the Bears rebounded last Sunday at Soldier Field against the Vikings.
Minnesota has a respectable defense (ranked 11th overall) that features perennial Pro Bowl defensive linemen Jared Allen and Kevin Williams. But unlike the Vikings, the Seahawks’ defense doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses and is sound at every position.
“From top to bottom, they have a lot of good players,” Bears tight end Matt Spaeth said.
Asked about the defensive line, Spaeth said, “We’ve faced some really good ones, but they’re definitely right up there.”
While veteran running back Michael Bush did a solid job of finishing the Vikings game, the Bears were encouraged that Matt Forte — who reinjured his ankle — practiced even on a limited basis Wednesday. Forte’s playmaking abilities could be essential to complement Marshall, who surely will be a focal point of the Seahawks’ defense.
“They’ll throw a lot of different looks at the offensive line and in the secondary,’’ Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said.
‘‘We’ve got to get [Marshall] going, hopefully get Matt Forte going. So it’s a collective group, but I drive the thing, so I’ve got to get off to a fast start.”
Cutler’s first-quarter struggles have been well-documented, but he did lead a touchdown drive on the third series against the Vikings.
He’s mindful of what he has to do against an aggressive Seahawks defense.
“I’ve got to get rid of the ball,” he said.
“It’s hard throwing out of a phone booth all the time. It makes life difficult when you’re getting hit, so you should be protected. If it’s better to have a few more guys in helping out, then that’s what we’ve got to do.”