Following a Tuesday game and a quick turnaround, the Seahawks are back at it Sunday when they host the Bears on Sunday. The seasons hasn't gone as hoped for either team, with the Bears sitting at 4-10 after making the playoffs two of the past three years, and with the Seahawks (5-9) enduring their first losing season in a decade. All of that being said, both teams are motivated to finish the year strong, and both teams have plenty of talented players on both sides of the ball to make this an intriguing matchup. If the Seahawks are going to get a win on Sunday, here are three key matchups that could make the difference when they host the Bears at Lumen Field:
1. Bears pass-rusher Robert Quinn vs. Seahawks LT Duane Brown.
Seahawks fans should remember Quinn well from his long career with the Rams in both St. Louis and Los Angeles. While Aaron Donald has long been Seattle's biggest nemesis when it comes to facing the Rams, Quinn wasn't far behind in his time there, and in 12 career games against Seattle, he recorded 14 sacks.
After seven seasons with the Rams, Quinn went on to play for the Dolphins and Cowboys before signing with Chicago last year, and in his 11th NFL season, Quinn is having one of his best years yet with 16 sacks, and he's been particularly good of late, recording 9.5 sacks in the past five games. Quinn lines up primarily on the right side of Chicago's line, meaning he'll see a lot of left tackle Duane Brown in a battle of two of the best at their respective positions over the past decade.
"I think that Robert Quinn has always been one of the most dominant players in the league," quarterback Russell Wilson said. "He's a guy that knows how to get to the quarterback, he gets off of the ball extremely well, he has long arms and long legs, he can really maneuver well, but we have a great left tackle in Duane Brown that will try to slow him down. He's a great football player, Robert Quinn, he's having one of his best years and he's had some amazing years in the past. I've had to go against him a bunch over the years when he was playing in St. Louis. He's a tremendous football player and he knows how to do it. We used to play against each other back in the UNC days too, so I know a lot about Robert Quinn."
Seattle's pass protection has been better of late, with Wilson taking zero sacks against Houston two weeks ago, and three last week against the Rams. While allowing three sacks is hardly ideal, not all of those were on the pass protection—at least one was more of a coverage sack and the other came on a Wilson scramble—and given the opponent, it was a solid effort from Seattle's line. Keeping that pass protection going this week will be a tough task against Quinn and an aggressive Bears defense.
2. Rookie QB Justin Fields' highs & lows vs. Seattle's defense.
*Note: Since this was published, Bears coach Matt Nagy said Fields, who is dealing with an ankle injury, will not start. The turnover stuff still applies though, so just call that Key Matchup No. 2, because we're not rewriting all of this on Christmas Eve.
Justin Fields, a first-round pick who took over the starting job early in the season, is a big-play waiting to happen, both with his throwing ability and his legs—he had touchdown passes of 46 and 54 yards against a Packers defense that shut Seattle out, and he has rushed for 420 yards and two touchdowns while averaging a robust 5.8 yards per carry.
The Seahawks have had one of the best run defenses in the league this season, allowing just 3.8 yards per carry, but seeing as Arizona's Kyler Murray was injured when they came to Seattle, the Seahawks have yet to face a quarterback who can run like Fields. That combination of Fields and running back David Montgomery should provide a tough test for the Seahawks defense.
"Understanding when he's going to take off," linebacker Bobby Wagner said when asked about trying to contain a mobile quarterback like Fields. "Understanding if he has a pass play and doesn't see anything downfield, he's really good at using his legs. Also, the offense kind of uses their read zone options and things of that nature, kind of put that into the game. Once he gets into that flow, whether he makes a couple runs, throws a couple passes, he kind of gets into a rhythm. That's the challenge is making sure we make him one dimensional, don't let him run around and get his confidence. Just make tackles."
But while the future appears very bright for Fields, it has been anything but a perfect rookie season for the former Ohio State standout. Fields has thrown 10 interceptions this season, including seven in his past six games, and has fumbled nine times in the past six games, with the Bears losing six of them.
Chicago's turnover woes have a been a big factor in their losing season—they've committed 25, tied for second most in the league, and have turned it over 10 times in the past three games—so the Seahawks should have a good opportunity to capitalize, though their 14 takeaways rank near the bottom of the league, so they'll need to be better than they have been for much of the season to take advantage of Chicago's ball-security issues.
3. Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf vs. a potentially short-handed Bears secondary.
The Seahawks didn't have Tyler Lockett in Tuesday's loss to the Rams due to COVID-19, a factor in their offensive struggles. And with Lockett back, the Seahawks are hoping to get back on track with him and DK Metcalf attacking a Bears secondary that has struggled this season, and that as of Friday morning, had two starters—cornerback Jaylon Johnson and safety Tashaun Gipson Sr.—still on the reserve/COVID-19 list after missing last week's game.
While the Bears have done some things well on defense this year, their pass defense has been an issue, with opposing quarterbacks throwing 26 touchdown passes against just six interceptions, and posting a 104.5 passer rating, the second highest opposing passer rating allowed in the league this season.
Yet while those numbers and potential COVID-related absences point to a favorable matchup for an opposing passing game, the Seahawks will know after watching the film of Chicago's last game that they can't take this opposing defense lightly. Even without the aforementioned two starters on the COVID-19 list, as well as Artie Burns, who'd started the past three games, and with rookie Thomas Graham Jr. making his NFL debut in a starting role, the Bears pass defense had one of its best games of the year last week, holding a potent Minnesota offense in check while limiting Kirk Cousins to a season-low 87 passing yards with a 69.3 passer rating.
The Seattle Seahawks take on the Chicago Bears for Week 16 of the 2021 season, the 17th regular season meeting between the two teams. Take a look back at some of their previous matchups.