He said / she said — Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks

The Hit Job editors Julian Rogers and Jessica Ridpath preview the week three matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and the Chicago Bears.

When: 1:25 p.m. PT Sunday, Sept. 27
Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.

Rogers: The 2015 Seattle Seahawks have much to teach us about the 2014 and 2013 Seahawks. Namely, Beast Mode is not just Marshawn Lynch. With the previously indomitable Lynch being stymied by the oft-maligned Green Bay Packers defense (15 rushes, 41 yards, 2.73 YPC) and also held to a below-average 73 rushing yards by the always also-ran St. Louis Rams — including a game-clinching stop for loss in overtime — the mystique of the Seahawks’ rushing prowess is fading.

Despite notching a few very Beast-like runs with defenders draped all over him, Lynch has found it rough going with the Seahawks’ offensive line leaking defenders through run gaps at regular intervals. If it were not for quarterback Russell Wilson’s escapability, the Seahawks’ run game would rank far worse than their current 11th ranking among all NFL teams — one spot behind the Packers and five spots lower than next week’s opponent, the Bears.

Jess, do you see any bright spots for the Seahawks’ offense in their 0–2 start?

Ridpath: The only bright spot in last Sunday’s came briefly in the third quarter. After leading the team to three meager points in the first half, Wilson came out swinging in the second, giving the Hawks their first and only lead with two quick touchdowns. It looked for a moment like the remodeled offensive line might be gaining their stride. That ended pretty quickly.

Here’s a positive: Wilson effectively used the read option to open up some scrambling lanes, which netted him 78 yards on 10 carries. But it wasn’t close to enough to make up for the lack of running room afforded to Lynch. If anything, he should have pressed that advantage more.

Seattle is in a must-win situation in their home game against the Bears this week. Despite the blue birds’ rough start, the offense may find a bright spot in the Bears’ spotty defense, which has given up more points than any other team in the league so far in 2015.

Julian, the Bears’ offensive threat is not nearly as daunting as the Packers’. But with Seattle’s front seven still finding their legs, it’s imperative that the Legion of Boom … well, play like the Legion of Boom. What adjustments do you think defensive coordinator Kris Richard will make to keep points off the board this week?

Rogers: I was about to say “Beats me.” But now, the answer has presented itself: Play Kam Chancellor. I expect Chancellor’s overdue return to reap instant rewards for the Seahawks’ underperforming defense. His return is one of three critical factors the Seahawks need to correct in order to start winning again.

While Chancellor did the Seahawks harm by withholding his services, the NFL schedulers likewise did the Seahawks no favors by putting them on the road for the first two weeks of the season. The Seahawks did not get blown out in either loss, but they came up short nonetheless. In this opening span, Richard’s defense revealed some heretofore unseen chinks in their armor:

  • A revolving door at strong safety. (problem solved)
  • Communication breakdowns.
  • A slumping Bobby Wagner.
  • A mortal Richard Sherman.
  • A feckless pass rush (4 total sacks).

I was about to crucify the Seahawks for their penalties, but get this: They’re actually averaging significantly fewer penalties thus far (6.5 per game) compared to 2014 (9.44 per game). Still, there’s plenty of leaks a-springing. If you’re Richard, which hole do you stick your finger in to stop the flooding? Can he convince the defense that it’s December already, when they allowed a mere 8.25 points per game last year? I certainly don’t know what else Richard can do other than play a less formidable opponent. Speaking of which …

… This early, I can’t say that I agree with you that it’s must-win for the blue birds already. (Spoiler alert: I expect them to win in week three.) Although if they drop a clunker against the Bears on Sunday, then I will completely reverse my tune. But they won’t, right? The Bears are winless, and they arrive in Seattle with their backup quarterback getting the start. Is there an easier game on the Seahawks’ schedule this year? From that perspective, yes, the Seahawks must win against this opponent. To clarify, going 0–3 won’t doom them (because there are still 13 games to go), but losing to a bad opponent at home would signal real problems.

Jess, am I crazy to feel this confident about the Seahawks’ chances after the way they started the season? Why are they gonna win?

Ridpath: You’re not crazy for feeling so confident. But you are crazy to think we’ll still see them in the playoffs if they drop to 0–3 — only three teams have mustered that feat since 1990. Even at 0–2, the odds are stacked against them: In the last six years, 45 teams have started the season with two losses, but only two found their way to the playoffs.

You’re right, though. It’s not time to hit the panic button yet. Of the nine teams with 0–2 starts this season, Seattle is most likely to right the ship. Looking at this week, the wheels would have to completely come off for the Hawks to fall to the Bears at home. Lynch may have been stymied last week, but with Chicago’s defense allowing an average of 124 rush yards per game so far, I expect we’ll see a more Beast-like performance in week three.

Turning to the Seattle defense, the impact of Chancellor’s return cannot be overstated. The key to keeping points off the board will be shutting down Chicago running back Matt Forte — who appears to be the Bears last best hope this season.

You’re also right that the defense doesn’t usually find high gear until December. The question is, will they be even slower to rev up due to Chancellor’s two-game absence? Or will his return accelerate their progress? I think the latter. Two games in and the LOB has zero interceptions. I expect we’ll see that drought end against Chicago’s back-up QB Jimmy Clausen.

Julian, what’s the most vital aspect of Chancellor’s return for the beleaguered Seattle defense — is it better coverage or better confidence?

Rogers: I hate to sound contrarian, but it’s neither. Of the two, it’s probably more the latter, but Chancellor is the back-end enforcer and traffic cop they’re missing. Yes, he will provide better coverage, but he will really amplify their run defense and intimidation. Chancellor will bring a toughness that will translate to much stouter run defense, which is exactly what is needed to stop the Bears’ main weapon that you noted: Forte.

The Seahawks are allowing a very un-Seahawkian 30.5 points per game in 2015. It’s been hard to watch. Case in point: In a downfield tackle attempt on Packers wide receiver Ty Montgomery, Wagner bounced off the target like he was the rookie. I expect that to be the last time we see that. I consider the defense on the mend.

If the Seahawks lose this game, the culprit will once again be the offensive line. Lynch’s paltry statistics alone indicate trouble up front. But even the most casual of observers can see that there was little room to run in St. Louis and even less in Green Bay. Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji rag-dolled and buckled center Drew Nowak seemingly at will. It’s a testament to Wilson that he was only sacked twice.

But the Bears are not the Rams or the Packers. I see a solid win for the Seahawks this Sunday in their home opener. Prediction: Seattle 28, Chicago 16.

Ridpath: Since when do you hate to sound contrarian? I thought disagreeing with me was one of your favorite pastimes. We agree about one thing, though: the Seahawks will win handily this week. From the Bears’ obvious weaknesses to Chancellor’s long-awaited return to (finally!) playing at home, all chips fall in Seattle’s favor. If Lynch has another slow start, I expect we’ll see Wilson take more and earlier advantage of the read option that worked so well last week. Prediction: Seattle 34, Chicago 19.

Owning up

Here’s what we were right and wrong about last week.

What Rogers got right: The game winner. I didn’t nail the score, but I’m putting this in my plus column. I’m 1–1 on the season. I also predicted continuing offensive line troubles.

What Rogers got wrong: Lynch’s yards. I forecasted a monster day for Lynch. It was anything but. I also expected the Seahawks to run-run-run to keep Aaron Rodgers on the sideline. The Packers ended up winning TOP 33:18 to 26:42.

What Ridpath got right: Not much, other than noting that Wilson would not be able to keep up with Aaron Rodgers and Co. if he did not get stellar support from the offensive line. He didn’t get the help he needed. But my nine-year-old Dylan nailed his assessment of the relative value Jimmy Graham brings to Seattle’s offense compared to Max Unger. I’m sure 12s everywhere are hoping Graham will soon prove him wrong.

What Ridpath got wrong: Pretty much everything else. And like the Seahawks, I’m now 0–2. So I’m looking to Wilson to help me right my ship by providing more than a quarter’s worth of fireworks this week.


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