The Chicago Bears will host the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game next week after a 35-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
On his first pass of the game, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler unleashed an absolutely perfect throw downfield to tight end Greg Olsen, who ran right past Seahawks safety Lawyer Milloy for a 58-yard touchdown that gave the Bears a 7-0 lead. From there Chicago ran away with it, though Seattle's two touchdowns in the final three minutes made the deficit deceivingly close.
The game confirmed that the Bears are one of the league's most complete teams, and also confirmed the Seahawks' reputation as one of the worst playoff teams in NFL history. Chicago is now a win away from the Super Bowl, and Seattle's season is over, with an 8-10 record counting the playoffs.
Some thoughts on the game:
• Despite a well-designed nine-yard run on their first play, the Seahawks went three-and-out on their first possession. The slippery grass at Soldier Field appeared to hurt the Seahawks on their third-down conversion attempt, when Brandon Stokley stumbled on his route and couldn't come up with a Matt Hasselbeck pass.
• Seahawks tight end John Carlson tried to hurdle a tackle and came down hard, head first, on the frozen Soldier Field turf. The game had to be delayed for several minutes while Carlson was stretchered off the field. Later in the game there was another scary moment when Seahawks defensive back Marcus Trufant took a hard knee to the helmet and also had to be stretchered off the field.
• On the Bears' second drive it became apparent that a major component of their game plan was to attack the deep middle of the field, as Cutler hit Johnny Knox for an 18-yard pass that was similar to his touchdown to Olsen.
• Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu was listed as questionable this week with a concussion, but he played and made a very big play early, sacking to end the Bears' second possession.
• After the Seahawks were forced to punt at the end of their next possession, Devin Hester took the punt back 26 yards. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said during the week that he'd kick to Hester, and he paid the price for it there.
• The Bears' ensuing possession featured an absolutely horrendous pass by Cutler, right into the hands of Seahawks defensive back Jordan Babineaux, who dropped it. Bears running back Chester Taylor ended up running into the end zone from a yard out, and Babineaux's mistake handed the Bears seven points.
• The rout was on early in the second quarter, as Jay Cutler made a nifty move on a six-yard touchdown run to stretch the lead to 21-0. That was the score at halftime.
• In the second half the game started to get out of hand for the Seahawks, who were completely outclassed. Cutler got his second rushing touchdown in the third quarter, extending the lead to 28-0.
• A long Leon Washington kickoff return after that touchdown gave the Seahawks some life, but they settled for a field goal that made the score 28-3. (That the Seahawks settled for a field goal late in the third quarter while trailing by four touchdowns suggests that they were more interested in avoiding a shutout than actually trying to win the game.)
• The Bears had the game in hand in the fourth quarter when they called a bizarre play that had running back Matt Forte passing -- right into the hands of Seahawks linebacker Aaron Curry. It was a dumb call at a point in the game when the Bears should have been sitting on their lead by playing it safe.
• With the good field position from Curry's interception, the Seahawks went 33 yards and finally got into the end zone, with Hasselbeck hitting Mike Williams for a two-yard touchdown pass to make the score 28-10.
• However, the Bears would score again late in the fourth quarter to make it 35-10. The fans in Chicago started chanting "Green Bay sucks!" during the fourth quarter, getting ready for the Packers to come to town in a week, with the winner going to the Super Bowl.
• Williams would tally another score in garbage time, when Charles Tillman dropped a would-be interception into the hands of the alert rookie receiver to make it 35-17 with the extra point. Chicago recovered the ensuing onside kick to help seal matters with 2:14 remaining, but not enough to stop Stokley from putting a touchdown on the board with 1:24 left to lower the final deficit to 35-24. The Bears would then recover another onside kick to end a game that was never close, save for the opening moments.