My inital thought as the Bears edged the Seahawks 27-24 in Overtime to advance to the NFC title game next Sunday is that the Hawks blew it. But upon a second look, that would be the easy way out. After all, there are two teams out there, and yes, the Hawks did have their chances to pull off the upset as a 9-point underdog, but let’s remember that the Bears were 13-3, and they have had some comebacks of their own this year.
Chicago played exactly the type of game they had to in order to escape with the win. They ran the ball with some success betwen Thomas Jones (66 yards) and Cedric Benson (45 yards). Quarterback Rex Grossman, who had the big time target on him this past week, was good enough, and didn’t make the killer mistake to make the Bears first round losers once again. He was 21-of-38 for 282 yards with one TD and one pick, and the pick was not really his fault as the ball bounced off of wide out Mushin Muhammad.
This was a game that you knew after the first half was going to come down to the wire. The Hawks were playing inspired football, and yes, Matt Hassleback did make mistakes, but the grit and determination that the team showed carried them to a 24-21 lead with less than five minutes left in the game. But it happens a lot this time of the year, and for good reason, the cream rises to the top. Sunday in Chicago the cream was the Bears and after an exchange of possessions in OT, the cream rose to the top, and Robbie Gould nailed a long field goal for the win.
The big play in the drive was one that the Bears knew they could get the Hawks on, and one that had gotten them earlier in the game. Playing with a patchwork defense and secondary, Grossman went to work on a 3rd-and-10 from the Bears 34, and found Rashied Davis for 30 yards to the Hawks 36. Four plays later, Gould sealed the deal from 49 yards out to send the Bears to a hosting position next Sunday vs the Saints.
Seattle played a good game, and yes, you can second guess them all you want to make them come out a winner in this playoff battle, but again, the credit overall has to go to a Bears team that did not give up, and a team that was able to make the big plays when they counted, and most importantly make the big kick when they needed it.
Chicago will need another outing like Sunday vs the Hawks if they are going to stop the Saints at home in the NFC title game. New Orleans’ offense is much better than the Bears, and they are going to bring the heat on Rex Grossman and try to get him to make more of those killer picks that he has been known to throw. Also the pressure, as it was on Sunday, will be on the Bears. No one has given the Saints a shot from day one, why would anyone now.
It will be a pressure filled week for the Bears. Can Grossman make enough plays? Can the defense get shored up? They did allow 306 yards, and some in chunks of yards to RB Shaun Alexander, who did not have the type of year that Deuce McAllister or Reggie Bush did. The Saints will bring it on Sunday, and the Bears had better be ready to answer the bell if they want to advance to Miami in three weeks.