Bears dominate Seahawks, setup NFC Final with Packers
Published: Sunday, January 16, 2011 at 8:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 16, 2011 at 8:49 p.m.
CHICAGO — With farsighted visions of hosting the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field in an epic NFC Championship Game, the Chicago Bears built a big early lead and beat the Seattle Seahawks 35-24 at Soldier Field on Sunday in a divisional playoff game.
In front of a crowd of 60,010, the Bears marched to a 21-0 halftime lead and never looked back as Jay Cutler hooked up with tight end Greg Olsen on a 58-yard TD pass on the opening drive. Cutler also scored two touchdowns, becoming the first Bears quarterback to run for a postseason score since Jim McMahon did so in Super Bowl XX
The Bears and Packers will meet in the postseason Sunday for the first time since Dec. 14, 1941, a game the Bears won 33-14. This season, the Bears and Packers split the two regular-season games.
"It's a great challenge for us," Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said of hosting the Packers. "We've played pretty well against them here the last couple of years. I'm excited we get the chance to play them at our place."
A victory next Sunday would send the Bears to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2006 season, when they lost to the Colts in Super Bowl XLI, and give them a chance to win the big game for the first time since Super Bowl XX on Jan. 26, 1986.
But the Packers stand in the way.
"It just doesn't get any better than for the NFC championship to come down to the Packers coming down on our turf this time," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "The Packers and Bears to finish it up, that's how it should be."
Cutler (15-of-28 for 274 yards, 2 TDs,no interceptions, 111.3 passer rating) concurred.
"It doesn't get any bigger than this," Cutler said of next Sunday's matchup. "To be in an NFC Championship situation, at home, and then to bring Green Bay in on top of it just adds to it. They're a really good football team, they're really hot. To go to Philly, to Atlanta, and now to come to us in Chicago ... they're used to the road, I'm sure their confidence is sky-high."
On the injury front, the Bears announced in the third quarter that safety Chris Harris would not return after sustaining a hip injury in the first half. Smith called the injury a hip-pointer afterward.
With 6:59 left in the third period, Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant sustained an apparent serious injury when he tackled Bears tight end Kellen Davis. Trufant's head appeared to collide with the right knee of Davis. Medical personnel from both the Bears and Seattle rushed out to the field and Trufant was carted off the field after being strapped down and stabilized. Trufant is an eight-year veteran from Washington State.
Seahawks tight end John Carlson was ruled out for the game after suffering a head injury with 11:55 left in the first period. Carlson caught a pass from Matt Hasselbeck, then tried to leap Bears safety Danieal Manning, who undercut him. Carlson, a third-year player from Notre Dame, landed awkwardly on his head along the Seattle sideline. He was strapped down and carted off the field after a long delay.
In a bid perhaps to duplicate the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup magic last season, the Bears enlisted Jim Cornelison to sing the national anthem, and he had the Soldier Field crowd roaring throughout as light snow fell.
The Bears wasted little time getting on the scoreboard. On their first possession, Cutler passed 58 yards to tight end Greg Olsen for a touchdown. Olsen beat veteran safety Lawyer Milloy on the route.
According to ESPN, Cutler became the first quarterback to throw for a touchdown on his first career postseason pass since the Jets' Chad Pennington in 2002.
The Bears mounted another drive late in the first period. After a 26-yard punt return by Devin Hester to midfield, Cutler passed 33 yards to Olsen to the Seattle 12. In the wildcat formation, Earl Bennett took a direct snap from center and rushed to the 3. On fourth-and-1, Cutler got the first down on a sneak. Chester Taylor burst in from a yard out for a score on second down, and the Bears took a 14-0 lead with 1:19 left in the opening period.
The Bears jumped out to a 21-0 lead after a nine-play, 63 yard drive early in the second period. Cutler ran six yards on a quarterback draw for the TD.
Cutler ran for his second touchdown of the day with 4:12 left in the third quarter as the Bears moved 70 yards in 14 plays to take a 28-0 lead.
The Seahawks finally got on the scoreboard with a 30-yard field goal by Olindo Mare with 1:52 left in the third period.
Seattle added a touchdown with 11:21 remaining in the fourth period following a 33-yard drive. Hasselbeck tossed a 2-yard TD pass to Mike Williams to draw the Seahawks within 28-10. The drive was set up by an interception by Aaron Curry of a Matt Forte pass from the wildcat formation.
A 39-yard TD pass from Cutler to tight end Kellen Davis capped the Bears scoring with 4:40 left in the game and raised the Bears' lead to 35-10
The Seahawks closed out the scoring with two late touchdowns, a 3-yard pass from Hasselbeck to Williams at the 2:16 mark and a 9-yard TD toss to Brandon Stokley with 1:27 left.
The Seahawks got a boost when linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who was questionable with a concussion, was made active for the game. As for the Bears, there were no surprises in the lineup or among the inactives. Pisa Tinoisamoa was on the lineup card as starter at strong-side linebacker for the first time since having his right knee scoped Dec. 3
The Bears, who entered Sunday's game with an all-time home playoff record of 11-7 (.611), were trying to avenge a 23-20 regular-season loss to Seattle on Oct. 17. Seattle entered the game with an inauspicious 8-9 record, yet added an impressive 41-36 playoff victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints the previous weekend at Qwest Field
Hasselbeck, who according to an ESPN report had 15ccs of fluid drained from his outer thigh/hip on Saturday night, completed 25 of 40 passes for 242 yards and one touchdown in the first encounter with the Bears.
Listed as inactive for the Bears were safety Craig Steltz, cornerback Joshua Moore, running back Kahlil Bell, offensive linemen Herman Johnson and Edwin Williams, tight end Desmond Clark and defensive tackle Marcus Harrison. Caleb Hanie was the third quarterback.
The Seahawks' inactives were quarterback J.P. Losman, cornerbacks Josh Pinkard and Marcus Brown, linebacker Joe Pawelek, center Lemuel Jeanpierre, guard Paul Fanaika, tackle Breno Giacomini and defensive tackle Amon Gordon.