Are you ready for some football?
The Seahawks travel to Soldier Field tonight for the first time since 2012 to take on the Bears for a nationally televised matchup on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.
Both teams suffered tough losses in Week One, with Seattle losing by three points in Denver and Chicago giving up a 20-point lead in a one-point loss to Aaron Rodgers and the rival Green Bay Packers. So tonight is an important showdown.
Here’s a look at five of the key matchups:
Seattle’s offensive line vs. Khalil Mack
There’s a reason Chicago traded for Mack and made him the highest paid defensive player in the league. Just look at what he did in his first game with the Bears: One sack, a forced fumble, fumble recovery, an interception and a touchdown. He was a one-man wrecking crew.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks and especially right tackle Germain Ifedi, struggled to contain All Pro defensive end Von Miller in Denver, who racked up three of the Broncos’ six sacks.
If Seattle is going to win on the road, the offensive line will need to do a much better job.
“Watching the film from their Green Bay game and how (Mack) was really causing a storm. It’s pretty impressive,” Wilson said this week. “You don’t get to see that many defensive ends make the kind of plays that he’s making, doing the things that he’s doing.”
Seahawks defense vs. Mitch Trubisky
Chicago’s young signal caller struggled through most of his rookie season, but he showed flashes of promise against the Packers.
He was most impressive with his legs, scrambling to find time to throw and running seven times for 32 yards and a touchdown.
“He is a threat,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s really strong and he’s explosive when he takes off.”
Seattle’s safeties Earl Thomas and Bradley McDougald combined for three interceptions last week in Denver, but young cornerbacks Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers struggled at times in coverage.
Seattle will need to keep Trubisky in the pocket and make him try to beat the Seahawks downfield.
“We have to contain him,” Carroll said.
Seattle’s run game vs. Bears D-Line
The Seahawks said before the season that they were going to focus more on running the football.
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and offensive line coach Mike Solari were brought in for that sole purpose.
And yet, Wilson handed the ball off just 14 times against the Broncos for 59 yards. Rookie Rashaad Penny and second-year back Chris Carson each got seven carries.
Schottenheimer blamed part of that on the fact that the Seahawks were backed up a lot because of the sacks and were not able to sustain drives, going just 2-for-12 on third downs. He also took blame.
“I probably overreacted to being backed up so much, having long yardage,” he said. “I’d love to have some more rushing attempts back. When you look at the balance, it wasn’t good enough.”
Carroll agreed, saying the Seahawks’ commitment to running the football will be on display this week.
“The running game is always at the heart of our focus,” he said. “We know that affects every aspect of our game.”
It could prove to be difficult, as the Bears only allowed 69 rushing yards on 18 attempts against the Packers.
Russell Wilson vs. Bears secondary
Whether or not the Seahawks get the running game going, the offense will still likely revolve around Wilson.
For the past few years, no quarterback has meant more to his team.
That was the case in Denver as well, when he threw for 298 yards and three touchdowns. But Wilson also threw two interceptions, and held onto the ball a bit too long, he admitted, contributing to the sacks.
“He can play better,” Schottenheimer said of Seattle’s Pro Bowl QB. “And when he does, that gives us the best chance to win.”
The Bears return all four of the starters from a secondary in 2017 that was near the bottom of the league in both passing yards and interceptions. If Wilson can find time in the pocket, he should be able to pick them apart.
Pete Carroll vs. Matt Nagy
Perhaps the biggest strength for the Seahawks is their Super Bowl winning coach.
Carroll’s wealth of experience is always an asset, but it should mean even more against a rookie head coach going into his second game.
Nagy has been coaching in the NFL since 2008, but he only spent three seasons as an offensive coordinator before getting the Bears head job.
Carroll has not only won a Super Bowl, he’s also put together one of the best records in history in prime time football games, going 22-4-1 since arriving in Seattle on Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights.
“There’s ways that we approach it,” he said this week of that success. “There’s a mentality we’ve had for years, and we’ve been pretty successful.”
The Seahawks are hoping that continues tonight in Chicago.