Wednesday, January 10, 2007

How the Hawks can beat the Bears

This Sunday, the Seahawks return to Soldier Field to play the Chicago Bears, who smeared us week four, 562-0. The conventional wisdom on the game goes something like this: (1) the Hawks will need to get inside Rex Grossman's head early; (2) Shaun Alexander will need to have a big day; (3) Jerramy Stevens will need to continue to play well.

Well, one out of three ain't bad. The Bears have two top-notch cornerbacks in Charles Tillman and Nate Vasher, so Stevens will have to go over the middle (against Brian Urlacher) and make plays. But let me go on the record saying that I think points #1 and 2 are far less important than you might think.

First, Sexy Rexy Grossman: it's no secret he's played like crap over the last couple of weeks. The temptation is therefore to blitz him like crazy, to "rattle" him and make him lose his confidence. In reality, this would be a disaster: Bernard Berrian is one of the fastest WRs in the league, and if we leave Jennings or Babs on an island with him, he's going to burn right past them -- and Rex will hit him for a long gain. The other WR, Muhsin Muhammed, is no slouch either, and poses a matchup problem with his huge size against our dimunitive corners.

The solution is to do almost exactly what we did last week: rarely blitz (so that Lofa and Leroy Hill drop back into coverage) and play a cover-2 scheme with Hamlin and Boulware. I watched the Hawks game on NFL replay yesterday -- twice -- and virtually every big gain we gave up was on a blitz. So key #1: don't blitz Rexy.

Second, you can pencil this in now: Shaun will carry the ball about 20 times for about 75 yards. If he has a good day, he might break 100 -- barely. And against the Bears D, he's unlikely to have a good day. The key on Sunday will be the decisions of Matt Hasselbeck and the game calling of Holmgren. It pains me to say this, but it took blind luck to save us from Matt's blunders on Sunday. I'm not talking about the botched hold by Rony Tomo -- I'm talking about the two interceptions that didn't happen because Cowboys' D-backs dropped balls thrown straight to them. Add to those the picks that did occur, and we could have been blown out.

The real key will be play calling. The Hawks have played 17 games now, and I've seen exactly three creative plays on offense all year: two end arounds to Branch, and one pass to Seneca Wallace. Hey, here's an idea: let's use Seneca as a WR (he's the fatest guy on the team) and throw some quick hitches to him! Or line him up in the backfield and run the option! Or hell, just run a damn flea flicker! The Bears have a suffocating defense. But you can neutralize a good defense by confusing them with innovative offensive schemes (see, e.g., New England Patriots, 2002-present).

Sunday's game rests on the shoulders of Matt and the Walrus.


Anonymous jimmimoose said...

I very much agree with this. I think the Hawks' best hope lies in getting Matt throwing well and carving up the Bears D on extended drives with a lot of short 6- and 7-yard pickups. Branch should be perfect for this sort of thing, as is Engram. Mix in some mediumly effective runs from Shaun, and we might be able to score some points and keep things in our favor.

I agree that blitzing isn't the way to beat the Bears or Grossman, but I think our front four is going to need to get at least some pressure on their own or we're screwed anyway. Our secondary isn't talented enough to protect receivers for more than 5 or 6 seconds on a play, and unless we can force Grossman to throw quicker than that, he'll just sit back and be able to pick us apart downfield.

I have some hope, we can win this game, but it's going to be a fight if we're going to do it.

Final score prediction, homer style: Hawks 24-Bears 14
Final score prediction, realistic style: Bears 28-Hawks 14

1:30 PM  
Blogger Becky said...

Don't you just want to see Holmgren and Reid in a walrus-off?

I will be pulling for the Bears, which naturally means they will lose by at least 14.

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Nic said...

I would love to see Holmgren and Reid in a walrus-off, because that would mean that the Hawks had beaten the Bears, the Eagles had beaten the Saints and the Hawks are an easy game away from going to another super bowl.

Also for comedy fat sea creature reasons too!

2:32 PM  
Blogger John said...

Hawks lose today in heartbreaking fashion. First, I blame the offense. The defense played well enough, given how often the offense turned it over or went 3 and out. Since I can't blame any particular player (except maybe Hasselback), I blame the playcalling. Chicago gave us so many chances to win this game. SO frustrating. Also lame to watch DJack return, just to drop two key passes. Would have preferred to watch Hacket or Engram get those chances.

9:24 PM  

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