|ESPN.com: NFL Playoffs 2010||[Print without images]|
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Quarterback Jay Cutler strayed off the excuse-laden path of explaining away the Chicago Bears' struggles -- which has been a dominant topic this week -- during a Week 6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, and gave the opponent the credit it deserves heading into the rematch between the teams.
Cutler tossed aside the opponent's record in assessing its prowess, saying Chicago needs to be prepared "for anything" Sunday when it faces the Seahawks in the NFC divisional round because "they've got nothing to lose."
"They're a better team," Cutler said. "To get to the point where they're at, or where we're at, you have to get better throughout the season. They beat a very good Saints team last week. So that gives you an indication of how they're playing. We've got a really big challenge ahead of us."
Instead of lamenting issues from the Oct. 17 loss concerning pass-run ratio, and protection along the offensive line, Cutler focused on what the Seahawks have shown on tape recently.
Although they brought five or more rushers 55.3 percent of the time in the first matchup, and a defensive back off the edge 44.7 percent of the time in the first meeting between the teams, according to ESPN Stats & Information, the Seahawks have turned down the heat significantly in their past two outings, which is something Cutler noticed almost immediately in early preparation.
The Seahawks turned to a more conservative approach in the past two games on defense, opting for the standard rush of four or fewer on 89.7 percent of Sam Bradford's dropbacks in the regular-season finale against the St. Louis Rams, and 91.7 percent of Drew Brees' drops last Saturday in the wild card round.
So in-depth comparisons of tape from the Week 6 matchup to recent Seahawks games give the Bears the impression they need to be ready for anything.
"It's the same players, same system, same scheme," Cutler said. "You get a good indication of what they want to do aginst us. You can definitely tell from the week we played them to where they're at now they're a much improved team. They've played some man. They've played some zone, depending on who they're going against. So we're not for sure what they're going to do against us. We're gonna figure it out in the first quarter and go from there."
For the second consecutive game, the Bears face a defense that has shown a penchant for blitzing defensive backs. The Packers brought a defensive back 16 times in the second half of the regular-season finale, which affected Cutler to the point of him generating a 50.3 passer rating in those situations.
Of the six sacks Seattle generated in the first meeting between the teams, 4 1/2 of them came from defensive backs.
"These guys are a little bit different of a team [than Green Bay] with their blitzes and stuff," Cutler said. "They're more safety-oriented than some of the nickel [blitz] stuff [that the Packers do]. So we've got a good feel for what they're gonna do in the passing game. They've calmed down [the blitzing] a little bit since that week that we've played them. But we've got to prepare for anything because they've got nothing to lose in this game. They could show us anything."
Despite preparing for exotic defensive looks the Seahawks could bring, the Bears don't plan to stray too far away from what they've done for the majority of the season on offense. Cutler said offensive coordinator Mike Martz didn't dramatically alter the game plan for Sunday, and that despite the magnitude of the game, preparation inside Halas Hall hasn't changed.
"Same game plans that we've had, very similar feel," Cutler said. "You know, it's gonna change from game to game depending on the opponent, and we know that. So there's some stuff that we've done before, [and] some new stuff. It's pretty similar to what we've done in other weeks. The guys are business as usual; we've had good meetings so far. The guys are attentive. It's normal inside the building right now. It's gonna be a fun game on Sunday."
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.