Long-ago Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan always said that he learned his most basic tenet while the New York Jets defensive line coach and he saw the single-mindedness with which head coach Weeb Ewbank protecting quarterback Joe Namath. Ryan said he concluded that if taking care of the quarterback was that important, then getting to the quarterback should be the prime directive for his group, and when he became a coordinator in Chicago, it remained his guiding principle.
Jay Cutler, whether for reasons of strategy or simple self-preservation, is of like mind.
First and foremost, youve got to protect the quarterback, Cutler said. Its hard throwing out of a phone booth all the time. It makes life difficult when youre getting hit so you should be protected. If its better to have a few more guys in helping out, then thats what weve got to do.
So, how to do it
Saying it and doing it are different matters entirely. And, besides the fact that Seattle ranks No. 3 defensively in scoring (16.8 points per game; the Bears are No. 2 at 15.9 and San Francisco still No. 1), heres the first problem:
A weakness in the Bears offense an offensive line still with moving parts after injuries and demotions is directly opposite core strength of the Seattle Seahawks defense.
The Seahawks made defensive end Bruce Irvin the 15th overall pick of this years draft. He has seven sacks (nine, according to ProFootballFocus.com), five QB hits and 14 hurries despite playing almost exclusively in nickel situations and less than half (280) of Seattle opponents 667 snaps.
Chris Clemons has eight sacks and 17 hits. Clemons is 6-foot-3, 254 pounds, or just about the same size as San Franciscos Aldon Smith, who ran over and through the Bears for 5.5 sacks.
Seattle starts Clemons along with three massives: end Red Bryant (6-4, 323), who returned an interception of a Caleb Hanie pass last year for a touchdown; and tackles Alan Branch (6-6, 325) and Brandon Mebane (6-1, 311).
Theyve got some size about them, said offensive coordinator Mike Tice. And 91 Clemons is a prolific pass rusher.
Finding a weakness
The Bears stated goal every game is to render an opponent one-dimensional by taking away the run game. The Seahawks believe the same but have inexplicably struggled stopping the run, however, going from No. 4 in the NFL in yards per carry allowed to No. 26 this season.
But Seattle ranks seventh in sacks per pass play and the Bears are an alarming 32nd in sacks allowed per play. And the Seahawks allow opposing quarterbacks a pedestrian 75.4 passer rating per game. Only the Bears (65.1) and Arizona Cardinals (74.3) are tougher.