LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears often claim to simply do what they do defensively.
Apparently, that hasn’t changed based on film study from Seattle Seahawks receiver Mike Williams, who caught a career-high 10 passes for 123 yards in a 23-20 win over Chicago in Week 6, and poses a dangerous threat to the Bears for Sunday’s rematch in the NFC divisional playoffs.
“Watching film from our game, and then watching Chicago down the stretch and the stuff they did to the different receivers they played, I don’t think they really game-planned for us one way or the other on the perimeter,” Williams said. “I think they just played their game.”
The key for the Bears this time around, though, is to do it better. That starts with getting pressure on quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to disrupt his timing with Williams and a pair of targets -- Brandon Stokley, and Ben Obomanu -- who combined with Williams for 14 catches, 184 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the team’s wild-card win over the New Orleans Saints.
“They executed better than we did [in the first game]. Obviously, it’s gonna be a little different this time,” Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said. “They had us on our heels most of the game. They ran it pretty well, and they threw it when they wanted to.”
Hasselbeck passed for 242 yards, and a touchdown when the teams met on Oct. 17 against a Bears defense that couldn’t notch a sack or force a turnover, while generating only one quarterback hit. The teams finished the game equal (0-0) in turnover ratio.
Interestingly, the Bears won just one of three contests the regular season under those circumstances.
“It would be nice to get a sack this game on Hasselbeck,” cornerback Charles Tillman said. “We didn’t have any sacks [in the first game]. We didn’t have any turnovers. Definitely, man, you can’t throw the ball if you’re on your back. So we want to get a lot of pass rush going on and hopefully that can [disrupt] the timing between him and Mike Williams. Mike Williams is a good receiver, and Hassselbeck is playing as good as ever. The timing the two have is great.”
Tillman neglected to mention what the other receivers have done.
Although Williams caught 10 passes against the Bears -- the most by a Seahawk since 2007 -- and posted 11 receptions the next week, and 11 three weeks later, the impact of Stokley and Obomanu can’t be diminished.
A veteran slot man, Stokley played two years for Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates in Denver, where the receiver posted two of the best statistical seasons over his 12-year career in terms of receptions. Stokley also contributed four catches against the Seahawks, including a 45-yard TD.
Obomanu, meanwhile, is in his fifth year and third coaching staff in Seattle, but he is finally able to take advantage of an opportunity. Obomanu didn’t catch a pass in the first showdown between the teams, and he hauled in just 30 passes for four touchdowns in the regular season.
But in just six starts, Obomanu doubled his output from the previous four seasons, and tied Williams for the team high in receptions (five) against the Saints, in addition to chipping in 43 yards.
“This is a big opportunity for us,” Williams said. “We got in a great week of practice. Coach [Pete] Carroll spoke on it when we just broke down. We’ve done the things that we can do to give ourselves a chance.”
The Bears have done the same on defense by tightening up in key areas throughout the season, while staying true to their core philosophies. That’s one of the elements of the Bears’ defense that stuck out on film to Williams, who said the team hasn’t changed at all schematically from the first meeting.
“Through the course of the season, that’s what they did -- [they never changed] -- they just made plays,” Williams said. “Their guys up front made more plays. So we don’t expect anything different. Obviously, they’re playing harder, and with us winning [the first game], they’re going to play us a lot tougher and with the revenge factor. We’ve just got to match their intensity.”