But, after Seattle knocked off the Saints, 41-36, last weekend, everybody and their momma seemed to jump all over Seattle's playoff bandwagon. It was almost as if the 13-3 Chicago Bears, the NFC's second seed, were no longer the favorites, despite being favored by 10 points according to many bookies.
All of the talk ended as soon as Seattle stepped in to the snowy Soldier Field yesterday, though.
The 35-24 final score really doesn't tell the whole story. You kind of had to watch the game in order to fully understand the Chicago dominance in this one. Once again, Matt Hasselbeck's stats were outstanding (26/46, 258 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT), which is what we have come to expect from the veteran, but his offense didn't start clicking until the final quarter of play. Much too late for Pete Carroll's Seahawks.
Quarterback Jay Cutler (15/28, 274 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT) seemed flawless in his postseason debut, but it was the Bears' run game that was the difference in this matchup, overpowering Seattle for 176 yards, including Matt Forte's 80 yards and Cutler's two rushing TDs.
Seattle, on the other hand, couldn't get anything going on the ground, running for just 34 yards as a team. As I told you in my preview and bold predictions post, Da Bears shut down last week's hero--Marshawn Lynch--for just two yards on four carries. Why they didn't use Lynch more often is beyond me, but Chicago did what they could to stop him on his limited carries.
The score read 28-3 at the end of three quarters, seemingly out of reach for Seattle. Not so fast. Hasselbeck finally got things under control and led Seattle on three fourth quarter touchdown drives. If it wasn't for Cutler's 39-yard bomb to Kellen Davis with just under five minutes to play, we probably would've had ourselves a game.
Nevertheless, Chicago forced the Seahawks to be one dimensional, both through defense by shutting their RBs down, and through offense for taking a huge early lead at the half. This forced Seattle to play catchup the entire second half, making it tough to effectively run the football.
With Green Bay's red-hot offense coming in to Soldier Field next weekend, there's a chance we could see a history-making NFC Championship on Sunday.
One could only hope...
Bears offense: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh