Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011
By John Mullin
Two sequential commandments order the universe of just about every defense, including the Bears. The problem with the second one is that against the Seattle Seahawks, it may be next to impossible.
Commandment one is stop the run. Take away an option as well as yards and force opposing offenses to look at third-and-longish situations.
Then fulfill commandment two: Pressure the quarterback.
Easier said than done against Matt Hasselbeck, a 35-year-old veteran who went unsacked by the Bears in game one between the teams, one of three games. Nine of the 15 opponents Hasselbeck faced this season sacked him only once or not at all. Only four teams sacked him more than twice and the Seahawks went 2-2 in those games as it was.
Their offense is a quick game, said defensive end Julius Peppers. They rely on a lot of turn-in routes, quick stuff so weve got to do the best we can as far as getting to the quarterback. And if we cant get there, weve got to get our hands up in the lanes, bat passes down, that sort of thing.
Youre not going to get to him a lot but youre going to have places where they take chances deep, max-protect and play-action, and those are where you have the opportunities.
The Bears allowed third-down conversions at a rate of 35 percent, including 7 of the 18 opportunities by the Seahawks. Significantly, Hasselbeck and the Seahawks were 0-for-7 in third downs of 10 yards or longer but 6-for-9 when the situation was third-and-6 or shorter.
Defensive linemen have characterized pass rush against a good West Coast quarterback as often little more than two steps and get your hands up.
When you go in against someone like Hasselbeck, you just play fundamentals, said defensive end Israel Idonije. You do have to stop the run first and then you make that team one-dimensional. That allows you to take over the game.
They do use a lot of short, quick stuff and youve got to have a plan as a defense to counteract that.
You have to force them into situations where they have to hold the ball longer and take shots down the field.
Hasselbeck comes with the lowest passer rating (73.2) of the eight quarterbacks still in the playoffs. Jay Cutler, at 86.3, ranks sixth among the eight, ahead of only Hasselbeck and New Yorks Mark Sanchez.
Curiously, though, Hasselbeck has a higher rating on third downs (76.9) than his overall (73.2). Cutler (75.1) is less efficient on third downs.
The Seahawks rank just 22nd in third-down conversions (the Bears rank 27th) while the Bears defense stands sixth in third-down efficiency allowing 33 percent conversions.
But Hasselbeck has been around playoffs since his early career days in Green Bay when Brett Favre was holding clinics. And he took the Seahawks to the playoffs every year from 2003-07, including the Super Bowl in 2005.
Hes a veteran, knows where to go with the football, does a lot of pump fakes to get you off your landmarks, and knows where to go with the football after that, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. "He doesnt make a lot of mistakes. Theyre protecting him well right now. I think the running game is helping. Anytime youve got a running game, its going help your quarterback. Theyre doing a good job right now.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.