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Monday, January 17, 2011
Free Head Exam: Chicago Bears

By Kevin Seifert

After the Chicago Bears' 35-24 victory against the Seattle Seahawks, here are three issues that merit further examination:
    Head Exam
    The Chicago Bears take a break from their preparations for the NFC Championship Game to step into the exam room.
  1. We wondered lasted week whether the Seahawks would blitz quarterback Jay Cutler, like they did in the teams' Week 6 meeting, or if they would mix it up. As it turned out, the Bears made that decision for them with their first pass of the game. With the Seahawks lined up in man coverage and walking their linebackers to the line of scrimmage, tight end Greg Olsen got a step on safety Lawyer Milloy and hauled in a perfect 58-yard touchdown pass. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Seahawks blitzed on only 17 percent of Cutler's dropbacks. Center Olin Kreutz didn't think it was a coincidence. "That pass to Olsen put them on their heels," Kreutz said. "It showed they would pay for going man coverage. It took them out of a lot of their blitz plans. Us hitting them up top early... kind of scared them I think."
  2. We'll get into this more during the week, but a few bye-week wrinkles were evident in the Bears offense. First, they ran three Wildcat plays -- including a pass from Matt Forte that seemed designed to put an extra layer on the preparation of future opponents. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz also called a quarterback draw out of a shotgun formation, resulting in Cutler's 9-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. According to ESPN Stats & Information, it was the first time Martz has called a run for Cutler out of the shotgun all season. Previously, Cutler had rushed seven times on plays that started in a shotgun, but all were scramble attempts after a pass play went awry.
  3. How thorough was the Bears' defensive domination Sunday? In shutting out the Seahawks for nearly three quarters, the Bears didn't allow a single completion that traveled more than 15 yards in the air. That's the classic indicator of a Tampa-2 defense keeping everything in front of it. It wasn't until late in the fourth quarter that Matt Hasselbeck completed his one and only downfield pass of the game. This issue will be a hot topic as we discuss the Bears' matchup with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who historically has struggled to get the ball downfield against the Bears' defense as well.
And here is one issue I don't get:
There has been a lot of talk about replacing the grass at Soldier Field, which is annually in terrible condition. Even some Bears players are complaining about it, but I have to wonder if their sentiments aren't partly strategic. The Bears know the field better than anyone and have a far better chance of anticipating its condition than opponents, even a regular vistor like the Packers. Conversely, the anticipation of problems is a powerful psychological disadvantage for the visiting team. If I were a Bears player, I would complain about the turf every time someone put a microphone in front of me, whether or not I believed it or not. Planting that concern in the minds of an opponent is a powerful home-field advantage.