- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Creativity works well for art, but apparently not for the Chicago Bears offense.
By stripping away the glam from the first time the teams met in Week 6, the Bears built a simpler, yet more dangerous offense in the image of coach Lovie Smith, according to Seattle Seahawks safety Lawyer Milloy.
“Something wasn’t working right from our game [in Oct. that the Seahawks won 23-20], and they made some minor adjustments I think have [served] their team very well since then,” Milloy said. “It doesn’t look like they have as much in their playbook. [They’re] keeping it simple, relying on a very good defense. The mold of the Chicago Bears, to me, since Lovie’s been there is to play sound offense, very good defense and you have a chance to win. It seems they’ve all accepted that, and they’ve played better because of it.”
The Bears get an indication Sunday in the NFC Divisional round as to whether the formula can carry them through the postseason.
But there’s no denying that Chicago’s offense -- like Seattle’s -- comes into Sunday’s matchup a markedly different unit. The changes the Bears have made offensively from the first game to recent weeks have essentially rendered tape from the Oct. 17 matchup useless.
Due diligence dictates the Seahawks rewatch the first meeting between the teams. But Seahawks coach Pete Carroll wasn’t certain how much it would actually help.
“Of course we look at that game on both sides of the ball and special teams, and look at the matchups from a physical [standpoint], the way we play with one another and all that,” Carroll said. “But we really have to zero in on what’s happened over the last six or eight weeks with these guys. I don’t know how they’re doing it. But that’s how we’re going about it.
“The emphasis to balance the run and the pass, that’s pretty clear,” the coach added. “We would anticipate they would stick with what’s been working.”
That’s probably a smart move on Carroll’s part.
Quarterback Jay Cutler said the Bears won’t deviate from what they’ve been successful at in recent weeks, other than a few minor tweaks based on looks they see from the Seahawks’ defense. Cutler called this week’s game plan “pretty similar to what we’ve done in other weeks.”
Seattle isn’t so sure.
“We know the game’s going to change some,” Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “I mean, they’ve changed as an offensive unit. They’re running the ball more, but just to go against their players, and have a feel for the types of routes they run, types of blocks they have, it’s good for us. But we know there’s going to be some changes.”
Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz said he won’t expand his already voluminous playbook for the postseason. According to Milloy, that’s part of what got the Bears in trouble during the first meeting when they sacked Cutler six times and held the offense to 0 of 12 on third-down conversions.
Milloy accounted for two of 4 1/2 sacks produced by Seahawks defensive backs.
“You have to be very careful if you have a lot of new things,” Martz said. “You don’t want them to have to worry and be indecisive. So we’re very sensitive to that.”
Indecisiveness definitely affected the Bears just six games into the regular season when they faced the Seahawks the first time. In addition to Martz’s wacky pass-run ratio of 14 to 39 in terms of play calling, the offensive line struggled with new pieces and concepts against a blitz-happy Seahawks defense while Cutler experienced misfires with the receivers nearly all day because of the pressure, in addition to the growing pains associated with learning a new system.
Milloy declined to divulge too much about the X’s and O’s concerning the Bears, but pointed out they typically don’t overdo it with changes in the blocking scheme to combat pressure, “but they do have a lot more hot passes to the receivers and backs” since the first time the teams met.
Looking back at the film from that outing, Martz chuckled when pondering how far the Bears have come since Oct. 17, while expressing encouragement about the unit’s future prospects.
“It was tough [to watch tape from the first game],” Martz said. “At the time, it’s hard to tell them where we’re trying to get to and where we can be, and there are just so many things to fix. They don’t have a vision of where they’re trying to get. Now when they look back on it, I think some of them are amazed at how far they’ve really come.”