CHICAGO — Chicago coach Lovie Smith has a standing invitation from Pete Carroll to bring his team to the Pacific Northwest, but for the past three seasons the Seattle Seahawks have found themselves traveling to the Windy City.
Of course, Smith likes it just fine that the Seahawks are visiting his turf for a third straight season, becoming an honorary member of the NFC North.
“I would assume Pete would want us to, but we like the confines of Soldier Field just a little bit better,” Smith said with a laugh.
However, Soldier Field could be the cure to what ails Seattle on the road. At 6-5 and on the cusp of making the playoffs, the Seahawks continue to be a mystery on the road, with a 1-5 record away from CenturyLink Field. All of Seattle’s losses have been by seven points or fewer – just one possession.
Soldier Field has been a home away from home for the Seahawks, who have won their last two regular-season games there.
“We have found some success,” Carroll said. “We know how to travel there, and we know what it takes. And we’ll try to bank on that the best we can and make the most of it.”
One of the things Seattle will lean on against the Bears is running back Marshawn Lynch. The Cal product has been held to an average of 43 yards a contest in the last two games against the Bears. However, Lynch did score three touchdowns in the contests, and helps create balance for Seattle’s offense.
Lynch had a streak of four straight 100-yard-plus rushing games broken against Miami last week, when he totaled 46 yards against the Dolphins.
Even with their struggles running the ball against Miami, the Seahawks are No. 8 in the league, averaging 138 rushing yards a game.
“We are a running team,” Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “We run the ball well, but it sets up a lot of other things for us. To have Marshawn Lynch and to be able to hand him the ball, it helps a lot of things.”
If Lynch is Seattle’s identity, creating turnovers is Chicago’s calling card. The Bears lead the league with 33 turnovers, including 20 interceptions.
Chicago has returned seven interceptions for touchdowns.
“If you just look at the turnover ratio and how important it is each game, you can see why we put so much of an emphasis on it,” Smith said. “That’s just who we are, that’s the core, that’s our DNA. We just feel like it’s not a good defensive game unless we can take the ball away.”
While the Bears specialize in forcing turnovers, the Seahawks have done a good job of taking care of the ball. Seattle has not turned the ball over in three games.
“Everything that I do I’m telling everybody (keep it) high and tight, just making sure that we’re putting the ball away,” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “I have to do a great job of it, and the same as the rest with the rest of the guys.
“At the same time you can’t play scared. You have to play fast and play your game, but just be conscious of it during the week. Our defense is tremendous at it as well, so going against them every single day really prepares us for these types of games.”
Carroll also will face a familiar foe across the field in Jeremy Bates, Chicago’s passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Bates was Seattle’s offensive coordinator in Carroll’s first season in Seattle. Carroll let him go at the end of the 2010 season because of personal differences.
Bates is now rejoined by Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, whom he coached while in Denver.
“There are some more visible things in their passing game that were specific to that time,” Carroll said. “Jeremy had a lot of success with those guys then and you can see the same success that they’re having now.”
SEATTLE (6-5) AT CHICAGO (8-3)
10 a.m., Soldier Field
TV: Ch. 13
Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: The Seahawks own a 9-4 edge in the series, winning five of the last seven games dating back to 1999. But the Bears eliminated the Seahawks from the playoffs in two of Seattle’s last three appearances, including a 35-24 win at Soldier Field on Jan. 16, 2011, in the NFC divisional playoffs. Seattle won the last meeting in the regular season, 38-14, on Dec. 18, 2011, at Soldier Field.
What to watch: Veteran defensive back Marcus Trufant is doubtful because of a hamstring injury suffered during Thursday’s practice, so third-year pro Walter Thurmond likely will see his first action of 2012 as Seattle’s fifth defensive back in passing situations. Defensive end Red Bryant (foot), linebacker Leroy Hill (ankle) and receiver Sidney Rice (calf) are all questionable for the Hawks. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson led the NFL with a 128.6 passer rating in November. He had a rating of at least 125 or better in all three November starts, the first rookie ever to do that in three straight starts. Reserve Seahawks offensive lineman Frank Omiyale plays against his former team for the first time since joining Seattle in free agency this past offseason. Omiyale started 31 games in his three seasons with the Bears. He started a game at left tackle earlier this season for Seattle against Dallas when Russell Okung was out with a bone bruise on his knee. Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman (foot), running back Matt Forte (ankle) and linebacker Lance Briggs (ankle) are expected to play today. Bears return man Devin Hester (concussion) and former Seahawks center Chris Spencer (knee) have been ruled out for today’s game.
The pick: Bears, 17-14.
No. Name (position)Ht.Wt.Year
24 Marshawn Lynch (RB)5-11215sixth
The Cal product scored three touchdowns against the Bears the last two times the teams met in the regular season.
81 Golden Tate (WR)5-10202third
Tied for the team lead with 6 TDs, Tate is playing just a couple hours away from alma mater Notre Dame.
25 Richard Sherman (DB) 6-3195second
Team leader in interceptions with 4 will have his hands full covering Chicago’s Brandon Marshall.
91 Chris Clemons (DE) 6-3254ninth
Clemons needs to take advantage of a banged-up Chicago offensive line; has just one sack in five games.
No. Name (position)Ht.Wt.Year
6 Jay Cutler (QB) 6-3220seventh
The Bears are 13-2 in Cutler’s last 15 starts, but they also are 1-6 when he has not started over that time span.
72 Gabe Carimi (OL) 6-7316second
Chicago Bears’ 2011 first-round draft choice is making his first career start at right guard after being demoted as the team’s starting right tackle.
54 Brian Urlacher (LB) 6-425813th
Bears defensive leader proving he can still play at 34 years old.
26 Tim Jennings (CB) 5-8185seven
The diminutive defensive back plays bigger than his size, and leads the league with eight firstname.lastname@example.org Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 eric.williams@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @eric_d_williams