Playing on the road hasn’t come easy for the Seahawks this season.
Away from the friendly confines of Qwest Field, they’re 0-2 and have been outscored by 34 points. Opposing quarterbacks Kyle Orton and Sam Bradford ripped up the Seattle secondary with relative ease while their defenses forced a combined six Seattle turnovers.
Despite the poor play on the road, Seattle (2-2) sits just a half game behind the idle Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West; however, a Week Six trip to Chicago to face the Bears (4-1) stands in the way of Seattle’s efforts of grabbing a share of the division lead.
“These guys are a lot to deal with,” said Seattle head coach Pete Carroll of the Bears during his Wednesday press conference at the Seahawks’ Renton, Wash. training facilities.
“Everything’s going to start up front on both sides of the football.”
Putting pressure on Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler will be a priority. Missing last week with post-concussion symptoms after injuring his brain during his ninth sack of a Week Four loss to the New York Giants, Cutler expects to play Sunday, but his performance will hinge on the play of his offensive line.
Injuries have forced Cutler’s protection up front to shuffle roles and, in the past three weeks, the results haven’t been perfect. Chicago quarterbacks have been sacked 16 times in the three-week span, including a franchise record 10 times in the Bears’ 17-3 loss to the Giants.
Should Cutler get roughed up Sunday by Seattle and have to miss any time, the Seahawks’ secondary will be licking their lips. Backing Cutler up is 38-year-old Todd Collins, who last week became only the fourth quarterback in the National Football League since the 1970s to throw four interceptions in a game and average 2 yards or less per passing attempt.
While Chicago’s offense has been weighed down by the play of its linemen, the Bears’ defense has been buoyed by those playing up front, especially defensive end Julius Peppers.
“He’s everything,” said Seattle’s Carroll. “He’s got all the size and the length that a big-timer has. The great speed that he has, his natural athleticism and body control that great pass rushers have.”
That athleticism presented itself last week on the road in Carolina, as the 6-foot-7, 283-pound Peppers came around the left end of the defensive line and made a leaping tip of a Jimmy Clausen pass before lunging to the turf to snatch the ball out of the air for an interception.
In addition to the interception, Peppers has two sacks and two forced fumbles on the year.
“He’s just perfectly suited for the position,” said Carroll.
Helping limit Peppers’ impact on the game will be recently acquired Marshawn Lynch, Seattle’s newest running back brought in from Buffalo.
“He’s a willing blocker,” said Seattle’s head coach.
Lynch wasn’t brought in just to try and help quarterback Matt Hasselbeck stay upright, though.
“He’s an extraordinary athlete and a great competitor,” said Carroll. “A guy with a real range of ability too, you know?”
“He can run inside, run outside, bounce the football, cut back. He’s got good burst to him…I mean, he’s really a complete running back.”
In four years in the NFL, the 24-year-old Lynch has two 1,000-yard rushing seasons and two seasons of seven or more touchdowns, while averaging one fumble lost per season.
“He’s going to get a lot of work in this game,” said his new head coach.
Kickoff from Soldier Field in Chicago is set for 1:00 p.m. Eastern Sunday.
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