For a second straight week, the Seattle Seahawks will face a familiar opponent in their unexpected march through the NFC playoffs.
Up next for Seattle is the Chicago Bears.
With Green Bay slipping past Philadelphia on Sunday in an NFC wild-card playoff, 21-16, Seattle (8-9) faces the Bears (11-5) again. Kickoff will be 10 a.m. (PST) Sunday at Soldier Field (Ch. 13).
The Packers (11-6) also get a rematch in the other divisional game, traveling to Atlanta (13-3) to face the Falcons again. Green Bay lost in Atlanta, 20-17, on Nov. 28.
Seattle earned a surprising 23-20 win on Oct. 17 at Soldier Field. It was, perhaps, the Seahawks’ best game of the regular season.
Before Seattle’s playoff victory over New Orleans on Saturday, the Seahawks’ win over Chicago had been the team’s only victory over a team with a winning record this season.
“It makes you a little bit more familiar with what they do, but overall you kind of have to put that behind you, because playoffs are nothing like the regular season,” Seattle receiver Brandon Stokley said about facing Chicago a second time. “It’s a whole different ballgame. And anything can happen.”
The Seahawks held the Bears to 307 yards of total offense that day, including 24 yards rushing. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had one of his better games, completing 25 of 40 passes for 242 yards, including a 22-yard TD pass to Deon Butler.
Receiver Mike Williams led Seattle with 10 receptions for 123 yards, and the Seahawks’ offensive line held Chicago defensive lineman Julius Peppers and the rest of the Bears’ defense without a sack. Seattle put Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler on his back six times. Cutler will be playing in his first postseason game in his five-year career.
Chicago’s offense finished 0-for-12 on third-down tries.
Seahawks safety Lawyer Milloy said the fact that Seattle had already played New Orleans this season helped in preparation for the Saints, and should serve the team well again this week in preparation for Chicago.
“I think it always helps,” he said. “We know what to expect. We beat Chicago in their home stadium, but they’re definitely a different and better team since the last time we played them.”
The two teams have some playoff history as well, with the Bears defeating Seattle, 27-24 in overtime, in an NFC divisional playoff game on Jan. 14, 2007, on their way to the Super Bowl.
Once again, the Seahawks can play the no-respect card. Oddsmakers have Seattle as a 91/2-point underdog on the road against the Bears.
Coach Pete Carroll said that his team will continue to approach every game the same way, even though they are in the playoffs – worrying more about what they do than what their opponent does.
“We are not going to be intimidated by whomever we play or wherever we go,” Carroll said. “I promise you we’re not; it’s not going to happen. We’re not going to be motivated to set some record, or whatever. It’s just going to be about this week.”
Oddly, the Seahawks still have an opportunity to host the NFC Championship Game for the second time in five years.
If Seattle, the No. 4 seed in the NFC, defeats No. 2-seed Chicago on Sunday, and if sixth-seeded Green Bay defeats top-seeded Atlanta on Saturday, then the Seahawks would play host to the Packers in two weeks.
The winner would advance to the Super Bowl.