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Bears give Seahawks their due, despite their record

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

The Bears have two obvious reasons not to overlook the Seattle ­Seahawks, the only team in NFL history to qualify for the playoffs with a losing record.

First, the Seahawks defeated the defending Super Bowl-champion New Orleans Saints 41-36 on Saturday. Second, the Seahawks ­defeated the Bears 23-20 on Oct. 17 at Soldier Field.

“It got our attention the first time we played them this year,” Bears receiver Devin Hester said. “We know that they’re a great team. That game [against the Saints] doesn’t surprise me at all.”

The Bears are cast in an unusual role this week as the favorite. But Bears coach Lovie Smith downplayed the fact that Las Vegas made his team a 10-point favorite to beat the Seahawks on Sunday.

“It doesn’t really matter,” Smith said. “When you have a playoff team, why do you even have favorites?”

Smith said the Seahawks might pay more attention to that, noting that they were similarly overlooked heading into their game against the Saints.

“Last week, they were big underdogs and won,” Smith said. “We have to take care of business. Any team can beat the other on any day.”

The Seahawks staggered into the playoffs almost by default ­because they play in the weak NFC West. Heading into their finale, the ­Seahawks were outscored a combined 112-54 in losses to the San Francisco 49ers (6-10), Atlanta ­Falcons (13-3) and Tampa Bay ­Buccaneers (10-6).

They punched their postseason ticket by beating the St. Louis Rams (7-9) in less than ­convincing fashion, 16-6.

Their most impressive victories were against the Bears and the San Diego Chargers (9-7) at Qwest Field, 27-20.

But everything changed when the Seahawks posted an impressive performance against the Saints.

“It’s just the way the playoffs go,” Hester said. “Teams fix all their problems later on in the season. They didn’t start off playing great, but now they’re starting to come along and playing well.

“Just look at last week and all the points that they scored.”

Besides, as defensive end Julius Peppers noted, the Seahawks are accustomed to being a playoff team. They have been to the postseason in six of the last eight ­seasons, ­including one NFC title.

“They’re used to being in that spot,” Peppers said. “They didn’t have a great season recordwise, but they’re used to being in the playoffs.

“They played like they were.”

Particularly quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, a three-time Pro Bowl selection. He has been hampered with injuries, but he performed brilliantly against the Saints, out-shining Drew Brees.

Hasselbeck rebounded from an early interception and finished 22-for-35 for 272 yards and four touchdowns. Brees was 39-for-60 for 404 yards with two touchdowns.

Against the Bears, Hasselbeck completed 25 of 40 passes for 242 yards with one touchdown.

“Hasselbeck, when he’s healthy and playing, he’s one of the top quarterbacks,” Smith said. “There’s a reason he’s played that long in the league.”

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