In more than 21/2 seasons, Pete Carroll’s Seahawks teams have won just six of 22 road games. But two of them have been in Chicago.
Their kind of town, apparently.
And the most compelling reason for those upsets is the same that stands as the key to a third-straight regular-season win over the Bears today at Soldier Field: clobbering the quarterback.
Wait, in the NFL today, a more appropriate mission statement is: to bring down the opposing passer with a hit applied by arms or shoulders somewhere between the chest and the navel.
In 2010, they sacked Jay Cutler six times. Last season, they sacked a pair of Cutler replacements four times and pressured them into four interceptions.
This year, with injuries further weakening a suspect offensive line, the Bears are worst in the NFL in sacks per pass attempt.
“They’ve gone through some issues there, they’ve had some problems with injuries, so they’ve got to shore up their side of it,” Carroll said Friday about the Bears. “I know they’re working hard at that. We’re trying to do the same on our end. We’re trying to get a significant rush.”
A late collapse at Miami – in the absence of a pass rush, significant or otherwise – makes today’s game even more critical to the Seahawks’ playoff hopes. At 6-5, the Seahawks are still situated for a wild-card spot, but another loss, particularly to an NFC opponent, would jeopardize that with a month to go.
The Seahawks recognize the importance, and have invested heavily for this exact situation. The demands of this game are why they extended the contract of Chris Clemons (3 years, $22 million) and used their first-round draft pick on Bruce Irvin.
Clemons has eight sacks and Irvin seven, but those two have had spotty production recently. Clemons has only one sack in the past five games. Six of Irvin’s sacks came in three games, with only one in the other seven.
Those two may be excused if they’re drooling down the front of their jerseys before today’s 10 a.m. kickoff.
In two of the Bears’ three losses, Cutler was sacked seven times by Green Bay and knocked out of the game by Houston. And when Cutler was out against San Francisco, his replacement Jason Campbell was sacked six times.
A series of torn ligaments and uninspired efforts leave the Bears with one consistently reliable lineman, center Roberto Garza.
Still, Cutler was sacked only once last week in a win over Minnesota, and offered a reminder that he can be effective when not on his back or in a daze.
Gus Bradley, Seahawks defensive coordinator, sees Cutler countering pressure with quick passes, most often in the direction of 6-foot-4 receiver Brandon Marshall.
“It’s a lot of quick, rhythm passes, which I think is probably to help their offensive line at times with some pressures,” Bradley said. “Every week, that is a challenge for us … to find ways to get pressure.”
Cutler also threatens to run if the pocket collapses. He’s rushed 25 times this season for an average of almost 6 yards each time.
“We have to make it hard on Cutler,” Carroll said. “He’s a really good football player. If we let him sit back there, he’ll tear it up. So, we’ll do all our things we can to make it hard on him.”
Those “things?” Two years ago, the Seahawks were effective blitzing safeties, as Lawyer Milloy and Jordan Babineaux combined for 3.5 sacks. Last year, ends Clemons and Raheem Brock mostly just whipped the Bears tackles with two sacks apiece.
Especially considering end Red Bryant might be out or limited with a foot injury, the Seahawks are probably leaning toward a smaller, quicker front anyway. Rookie Greg Scruggs (two sacks) and Jason Jones (2.5 sacks) should get more playing time in base sets.
“We’re counting on some pressure,” Carroll said. “That’s a big part of the plan.”
It’s worked in Chicago before.Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 email@example.com @Dave Boling