|ESPN.com: NFL Playoffs 2010||[Print without images]|
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck expects Sunday's NFC divisional playoff game against the Chicago Bears to kick up to "a whole other level" from the first matchup between the teams for one specific reason, outside of the one-and-done circumstances created by postseason play.
"For us to sit back and say, 'Oh, hey, we beat them at their place. We can do it again,' that would be a dangerous way to feel because [linebacker] Lance Briggs did not play in that [first] game," Hasselbeck said.
The Seahawks defeated a Briggs-less Bears team in Week 6 at Soldier Field behind a combined 110-yard rushing effort and two touchdowns from Justin Forsett and Marshawn Lynch, and Hasselbeck throwing for 242 yards and another score.
A Pro Bowler, Briggs suffered a left ankle sprain at Carolina a week prior to the matchup with the Seahawks that forced him to miss the Week 6 showdown. Brian Iwuh filled in for Briggs and led the Bears with a team-high 12 tackles.
But Hasselbeck refused to downplay the significance of Briggs' absence in the first meeting between the teams.
"Going into that game, we fully expected him to play," Hasselbeck said. "He didn't play, and that was a big deal. He's huge. I think he's arguably one of the best defensive players in the game. He is a big, big-time difference maker and a great football player. So as hard as this game is going to be, the fact that he's back takes it up to a whole other level."
The team's second-leading tackler (121 stops), Briggs is one of the catalysts for a unit that has held eight opponents to 85 yards rushing or fewer this season, which is an accomplishment considering only five teams (Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants) have done it this season.
Surely Hasselbeck is also aware that the defense ranks third in opponent passer rating, despite facing eight quarterbacks (Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers twice, Eli Manning, Hasselbeck, Donovan McNabb, Brett Favre twice, Michael Vick and Tom Brady) who have been named to the Pro Bowl at least once in 10 contests.
One of five linebackers since 2003 to generate 10 or more interceptions and 10 or more forced fumbles, Briggs is set to start in his fifth playoff game.Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com.