Sunday, January 7, 2007 Updated: January 11, 3:26 PM ET
Three things each team needs to do to win
By John Clayton ESPN.com
A quick breakdown of the Seattle-Chicago divisional playoff game.
The Seahawks will win if
1.Matt Hasselbeck gets hot. Since coming off the knee injury that sidelined him four games, Hasselbeck has yet to get on a roll. Against the Cowboys, he was 18-for-36 and had two more interceptions. That's 17 interceptions this season for a quarterback who normally takes care of the ball. Hasselbeck is a quarterback who thrives on rhythm and his rhythm has been off this season because of an ever-changing offensive line and an inconsistent running game. He is at his best when he jumps to the line of scrimmage and calls audibles and adjustments with plenty of time left on the play clock. Hasselbeck had one of his worst games in a 37-6 loss to the Bears in Week 4.
2.Shaun Alexander has a big day. Alexander has run hard the past three weeks. He missed the first Bears game because of a broken foot, and his replacement, Maurice Morris, rushed for only 35 yards. The inability to run that day forced more passes and the Seahawks couldn't get much done. In recent weeks, the Seahawks have found that they can win if Hasselbeck struggles as long as Alexander steps up. Though they will need to have both stars play well to beat the Bears, they need at least one of them to get hot.
3. Defensive coordinator John Marshall can keep patching his secondary with smoke and mirrors. Cornerback Marcus Trufant probably won't play because of a high-ankle sprain, so the Seahawks head to Chicago with a 178-pound rookie cornerback (Kelly Jennings), a bunch of safeties and a loan officer (Pete Hunter) who was signed last week while he was studying to be a border guard. The Seahawks' secondary was pretty healthy in their 37-6 loss to the Bears earlier in the season and Rex Grossman burned them for a 100.5 quarterback rating and two touchdown passes. Marshall must find a way to make up for the coverage inadequacies of safety Michael Boulware, who has given up nine touchdown passes this season.
The Bears will win if
1. Rex Grossman plays four quarters and doesn't screw it up. Other than Eli Manning, no quarterback in the playoffs has been under as much scrutiny as Grossman. Despite his hot start to the season, Grossman has been horrible lately. He found a way to "top" his 1.3 quarterback rating against the Vikings in Week 13 by posting a 0.0 rating in the season finale against the Packers. Fans want him benched. Lovie Smith continues to support him but it's pretty evident a bad start could earn him the quick hook. Brian Griese's had a couple of tune-up appearances in the final two weeks so he's ready. Bears fans will never forgive Smith if he leaves in Grossman for another clunker.
2. Nobody mentions the name Tommie Harris. Face it, the Bears' interior defense isn't the same without Harris, a Pro Bowl defensive tackle and one of the most disruptive inside forces in the league. Harris' season-ending knee injury left the Bears' defensive tackle rotation without much size or depth. Chicago has to limit Alexander to 80 yards or less. If the Bears seal in the inside running lanes and force the Seahawks into more of passing game, that matches up well with the Bears' defensive speed. If the Bears can do that, they will win.
3. They can get a hot receiver or tight end. The Cowboys weren't able to do that against the Seahawks. No one caught more than four passes and the Cowboys never really got their passing game going. The Bears need a 100-yard game from either Muhsin Muhammad or Bernard Berrian. Berrian was the hot Bear in the first game against Seattle, catching three passes for 108 yards, including a touchdown. A hot receiver will give Grossman confidence and it will open up the field for the running attack. The Bears could also use some help from tight end Desmond Clark, who had 45 catches and was tied for the team lead with six touchdown receptions.
John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.