A roadblock of Bears

Posted Oct 11, 2010

The next challenge for the Seahawks’ work-in-progress running game comes Sunday in Chicago against a Bears defense that ranks fourth in the league at stopping the run.

During their 4-1 start, the Chicago Bears have allowed an average of 78.6 rushing yards per game to rank fourth in the league.

This, despite facing a stable of running backs that includes the Dallas Cowboys’ duo of Marion Barber (11 carries for 31 yards) and Felix Jones (seven for 7), the Carolina Panthers’ 1-2 punch of DeAngelo Williams (12 for 51) and Jonathon Stewart (eight for 30) and Detroit Lions’ rookie Jahvid Best (14 for 20).

This, despite being trampled by the New York Giants’ Ahmad Bradshaw (23 carries for 129 yards) and Brandon Jacobs (six for 62) in their only loss.

So why was Justin Forsett smiling on Monday when the topic of the Bears’ run defense came up?

Because everyone from the Seahawks’ leading rusher, to just-acquired running mate Marshawn Lynch, to coach Pete Carroll, to the ever-changing bodies on the offensive line knows it’s only a matter of time before the offense gets its running game going.

The Seahawks’ averages of 79.5 rushing yards per game and 3.6 yards per carry almost mirror those allowed by the Bears’ defense (78.6 yards and 3.5).

“No matter who we’re facing, we’ve got to make sure we’re improving,” Forsett said. “As long as we can get them moving, we’ll be successful. If we just execute, we’ll be fine.”

But, it won’t be easy. While the Bears did allow 189 rushing yards to the Giants, they’ve held their other opponents to 20 (the Lions on 21 carries), 36 (to the Cowboys on 20 carries), 63 (to the Green Bay Packers on 15 carries) and 85 (to the Panthers on 25 carries).

“There are a couple of big dogs they got over there, man,” coach Pete Carroll said when asked about why it has been so difficult to run on the Bears. “They’ve had a mentality about them for years about playing great defense and they’re still doing it.

“So it’s just kind of one of the givens when you play the Chicago Bears: You’re up against it.”

The strength of the Bears remains their linebackers, and especially one of those big dogs to which Carroll alluded – six-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. But they’ve also added 6-foot-7, 283-pound defensive tackle Julius Peppers in free agency, turned the other end spot over to 6-6, 270-pound Israel Idonije and still have defensive tackle Tommie Harris – who was almost unblockable in the Bears’ 37-6 win over the Seahawks at Soldier Field in 2006.

“They’ve got a good front four and the ‘backers are really good as well,” Forsett said. “So the front four does a good job of getting pressure up field, and those ‘backers don’t need much help to be disruptive.

“They just have a lot of talent and a lot of athletes, so they can do a lot of things.”

The addition of Lynch last week in a trade with the Buffalo Bills gives the Seahawks a bigger back (5-11, 217) who runs even bigger, and one who complements the elusiveness and explosive quickness of Forsett – who also runs harder than his size (5-8, 198) would indicate.

But it will be what happens up front that determines just how much success Forsett and Lynch have at Soldier Field on Sunday, when the Seahawks will need to be able to run the ball to reduce the pressure that Peppers and Idonije can generate in passing situations.

First-round draft choice Russell Okung, who started but didn’t finish the pre-bye week game against the Rams in St. Louis, is another 10 days along in his recovery from a high ankle sprained that sidelined him for 5½ weeks. He practiced fully on Monday, as did Ben Hamilton and Chester Pitts, who were alternating at left guard. Carroll is hoping that right tackle Sean Locklear will be able to practice on Wednesday after sitting out to rest the sore knee that prevented him from starting against the Rams.

So the pieces are being wedged into place.

“Well, it’s going to take some proving here,” Carroll when asked if it’s too early to be optimistic about the running game. “We’re going out against a really good football team, particularly against the run. Chicago has been unbelievably difficult to run the football at.

“This will be a great challenge for us, and we’ll find out. But I’m excited about it and I’m anxious to see our guys come together.”