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Bears knock off the Seahawks, 35-24, to reach NFC title game

Chicago takes 28-0 lead behind Jay Cutler's passing and running. The Bears will play host to Green Bay with a trip to the Super Bowl at stake.

January 16, 2011|By Dan Pompei
  • Bears tight end Kellen Davis is tackled by Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant in the second half of their NFC divisional playoff game on Sunday in Chicago. Trufant was injured on the play.
Bears tight end Kellen Davis is tackled by Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant… (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press )

Reporting from Chicago — The pinnacle for Pete Carroll, fittingly enough, came on the weekend in which the college national championship was decided.

On the weekend in which the NFL's final four were determined, Carroll and his Seattle Seahawks looked like boys against men. Carroll's Seahawks pulled off an impressive upset at Soldier Field in October, but on Sunday they suffered a 35-24 beat down from the Chicago Bears, who earned the right to play host to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game Sunday.

The divisional playoff loss at Soldier Field ended the Seahawks' Cinderella story. After upsetting the New Orleans Saints in the wild-card round, the Seahawks went into the game as 10-point underdogs. But the Bears showed there were good reasons why they won 11 regular-season games compared with the seven the Seahawks won.

There was no amount of encouraging words or butt slaps from Carroll that could have made a difference for the Seahawks, who fell behind, 21-0, by halftime.

"I thought we were prepared, felt really good going into the game, really liked our game plan," said Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck, who completed 26 of 46 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns. "I felt like last night there was a ton of energy, just the whole trip. I think we really believed we were going to win."

Carroll can have that effect on a team. But whereas so many of Carroll's decisions worked in the first game between the teams, he didn't have the same kind of touch Sunday.

The Bears took a lead they never relinquished on a 58-yard touchdown pass from Jay Cutler to Greg Olsen on their third offensive play. Safety Lawyer Milloy, 37, was trying to cover Olsen man to man on the play. Olsen ran the seam and easily got behind Milloy for a score.

Cutler would run for two touchdowns and complete 15 of 28 passes for 274 yards and two more scores. Matt Forte provided 80 yards in 20 carries.

The Seahawks struggled to cover the Bears tight ends no matter what they tried. When middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu was on Olsen later in the first quarter, Olsen created separation, caught a short pass and turned it into a 33-yard gain. The Bears scored on a Chester Taylor run to culminate the drive.

The final score made the game appear tighter than it was. The Bears were up by 28 points before the Seahawks got on the board with 1 minute 52 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Before they scored a point, the Seahawks were deflated further by watching tight end John Carlson and cornerback Marcus Trufant carted off the field because of concussions.

Carroll said all indications are both will be fine, though both were expected to be kept overnight in a hospital for observation.

Over the last 16:52, the Seahawks outscored the Bears, 24-7. This was a testament to the Seahawks' not giving up and the Bears' getting cute.

"Once it got out of hand score-wise, I felt like they were just doing stuff to do stuff," Hasselbeck said. "Just trying to get all their coverages, all their blitzes on film for their next opponent. I didn't think it made any sense really to do what they were doing."

Of course Carroll was able to find a positive in the way the Seahawks finished up.

"We played very well these last couple weeks, and we practiced beautifully," he said. "The belief in what we were capable of doing shifted to another level…. There were times during the season you would have thought it could have gone another way.

"But these guys hung extraordinarily well and stayed together and kept believing. That was most powerful. It even showed up at the end of the football game."

The Bears avenged a 23-20 loss to the Seahawks in October, and more important, advanced to play the Packers.

"It's our closest rival," middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "They're right up the street, so it's a big deal. We have a lot of history with them. I think it's the oldest rivalry in NFL history, so it's a big deal. We don't like them; they don't like us."

dpompei@tribune.com

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