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NFL PLAYOFFS

Sam Farmer breaks down Seahawks-Bears playoff matchup

The Times' NFL columnist examines Sunday's playoff game and predicts which team will win.

January 12, 2011|By Sam Farmer

SECOND ROUND: SEATTLE AT CHICAGO
SUNDAY, 10 A.M. PST, CHANNEL 11

The Seattle Seahawks set their goal of winning the NFC West, and then … and then … "We never talked about what was beyond that but we all know that there's just great stuff beyond that," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck told reporters this week. "So here we are and to have a second-round playoff opportunity is really exciting, and that's what we care about right now."

The Seahawks aren't likely to say so, but even they have to be surprised about the way things have unfolded. They won the division at 7-9 -- the first team in the modern era to reach the postseason with a losing record -- then upset defending champion New Orleans in the first round.

Now, it's back to Chicago, where Seattle won, 23-20, in mid-October.

"We had a good experience, we know that. That's not a battle cry or anything, that doesn't mean anything," Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll said. "We just know where we're going, we know what it feels like, we know where we're going to practice the day before the game, and we'll know the sights and sounds of that stadium. So there's a little familiarity that I think helps. That's experience, and that's it."

The Seahawks are 10-point underdogs, something most teams would embrace, considering how popular the no-respect card is. But instead of fanning the flames by making a big deal of that point spread, Carroll brushed it off. At least publicly, he doesn't plan to use it as a motivational tool.

Seahawks tight end John Carlson told the Associated Press: "Every game, no matter how much the people on the outside say that we have no chance, he makes sure that we know that we have a chance."

Quick-strike offense

Chicago is capable of putting points on the scoreboard very quickly. In fact, on average, no one used less clock on their scoring drives this season than the Bears. Average time of scoring drives, 2010 regular season:

Team Drives-Time
1. Chicago-58-3:02
2. Detroit 62-3:03
3. Denver 60-3:04
4. Carolina41-3:06
5. San Francisco 51-3:08

Regular stand-up guy

Seahawks receiver Mike Williams, the former USC standout, said he'd love to be a comedian. It's fitting, then, that he threw around some one-liners in a recent Internet chat with Seattle Times readers.

Among his comments:

On how well Carroll throws the football: "If there was a senior citizen football team, he would be the quarterback." On whether he could lift Hasselbeck by palming his bald head: "Probably not. Judging by how shiny it is, it's probably slippery."

On whether Seattle Times beat writer Danny O'Neil is "smarter than a bag o' hammers": "I don't know, but I'm sure the bag o' hammers is better dressed."

From sportswriters everywhere: Ouch.

Good things come in threes

The Bears had 196 defensive series this season and forced 57 three-and-outs. That means opponents had three plays and a punt 29.1% of the time, the highest such percentage in the NFC and second only to the New York Jets. Highest percentages of three-and-out drives forced in the 2010 season:

Team, Drives, 3-Out, Pct
1. N.Y. Jets, 201, 62, 30.8
2. Chicago, 196, 57, 29.1
3. San Diego, 184, 53, 28.8
4. Green Bay, 182, 49, 26.9
5. Oakland, 205, 54, 26.3

Another view

Former Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher, now a CBS analyst: "You have two of the best returners in the game today in Devin Hester and Leon Washington. That may be the deciding factor in the game, because field position is going to be such a big part of it."

By the numbers

How the teams compare statistically. All statistics are per-game averages, except for turnover differential, which is for the season (league rank in parentheses):

SEAHAWKS Points scored 19.4 (23)
Points allowed 25.4 (25)
Pass offense 208.8 (19)
Rush offense 89.0 (31)
Pass defense 249.6 (27)
Rush defense 118.9 (21)
Sacks 2.31 (13)
Penalty yards 55.6 (10)
Turnovers -9 (27)

BEARS?
Points scored 20.9 (21)
Points allowed 17.9 (4)
Pass offense 188.4 (28)
Rush offense 101.0 (22)
Pass defense 224.3 (20)
Rush defense 90.1 (2)
Sacks 2.13 (17)
Penalty yards 48.0 (11)
Turnovers +4 (11)

Farmer's pick

A matchup to watch in this is first-year left tackle Russell Okung against Julius Peppers. That does not favor the rookie and turns up the heat on Hasselbeck.

BEARS 21, SEAHAWKS 17

sam.farmer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesfarmer

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