Bears were Pack’s biggest fans

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David Haugh
Monday, January 10, 2011
— All those Bears fans who celebrated loudly after Packers cornerback Tramon Williams picked off Michael Vick in the final minute to clinch Sunday’s NFC wild-card playoff win over the Eagles, brace yourself.

The line at the therapist’s office could be a long one.

Has there ever been a Packers victory so many people in Chicago wanted so badly?

All that was missing around town was a foam Cheesehead on the Picasso sculpture at Daley Plaza. All to set up a matchup Sunday at Soldier Field against the 8-9 Seahawks in the Bears’ playoff opener.

“I never thought anyone would say this, especially in Chicago, but go Pack go!” Bears kicker Robbie Gould urged the WMVP-AM audience before Green Bay’s win.

It was such an odd sentiment from a Bears player that I half-expected to hear Gould’s teammates praising local media coverage and complimenting Soldier Field grass.

The Bears had such a good bye weekend that we really should consider updating their record to 11˝-5 after the surprising chain of events in the first round of the playoffs.

First, the Seahawks became the NFL’s first sub-.500 division champion to win a playoff game by ousting the defending Super Bowl champs. Then Eagles kicker David Akers added his name to the Bears’ Christmas card list, ahead of Joe Webb alphabetically, by missing two makeable field goals. The Packers won by five.

In a Bears season full of breaks, this one might turn into the biggest yet. Instead of playing host to MVP candidate Vick and the Eagles or perennial Pro Bowler Drew Brees and the Saints, the Bears get to welcome the most beatable team left in the NFC field.

Chicago hasn’t been this excited to see a group of guys from Seattle arrive since the last Pearl Jam concert here.

“There’s not a team that I least want to play, but I definitely want to play the Seahawks because they beat us earlier in the season,” Chris Harris told WMVP-AM on Sunday.

Now Lovie Smith has ample supply of motivation at his disposal from the Bears’ 23-20 loss to the Seahawks on Oct. 17—before offensive coordinator Mike Martz’s intervention that changed the season.

That was back when the Bears still were searching for their identity like a college kid taking a year off to backpack in Europe. With Jay Cutler coming off a concussion and the Bears one game removed from rushing for 218 yards, Martz called 47 pass plays and 12 runs against the Seahawks. At one point, Martz called 11 straight pass plays. The Bears were 0-for-12 on third downs.

This Bears team and that one look alike in uniform, but not on film.

If watching the Packers beat the Eagles reinforced anything schematically, it was the value of offensive balance. As impressive as the Seahawks’ win over the Saints was, their defense still gave up 36 points. And the status of standout linebacker Lofa Tatupu remains murky after he left Saturday’s game in the fourth quarter with a concussion.

If the Bears commit to running the ball this time, they should look like the Bears we saw for most of the second half of the season.

The Seahawks surely will interpret the Bears’ glee in playing them as disrespect. Whatever works for Pete Carroll, whose first season in Seattle provided solid evidence that the Tony Robbins style of coaching indeed can work at the NFL level. The Bears would be foolish to underestimate the Seahawks because of Carroll and rejuvenated quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.

So forget their 8-9 record and your views on reseeding the playoffs. The Seahawks proved their postseason worthiness by sending the Saints marching home. They belong and in many ways became the poster child for this wackiest of NFL seasons.

But realistically, the Seahawks can lose by a last-second field goal to the Bears or get blown out and still take solace in a season that made history. The Seahawks just authored one of the most significant victories ever at Qwest Field. It was their Super Bowl. Would it be a reach to wonder if mentally, physically or emotionally the Seahawks have peaked? Or how a long flight into a Midwestern winter might require them to reach deep into a well of resolve that’s dried up?

Kickoff is 10 a.m. Pacific time Sunday. Is Seattle’s best coffee that good?

It’s not impossible but hard to imagine Carroll getting his team to play at any higher of a level than it has the past two weeks. The Seahawks have won two straight knowing a loss would have ended their season. They don’t have to beat the Bears to call 2010 special.

That football reality gives the edge in urgency to the Bears. That’s a big category in the playoffs.

A Seattle Times online poll Sunday of more than 5,000 readers showed 88 percent of respondents wanted a Bears-Seahawks matchup. Without conducting a similar poll around here, I’d say that sounds a little low locally.

Last updated: 4:07 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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