After two tough losses on the road to open their 2015 season, the Seahawks return home to CenturyLink Field to host the Chicago Bears Sunday. Both teams are off to 0-2 starts, but while the Bears are missing several key players, the Seahawks return home not just a mostly healthy team, but one that added Pro Bowl safety Kam Chancellor, who returned this week after missing the first two games. The Seahawks know they can't undo the two losses that started their season, but they're ready to put that behind them and working towards turning things around.
"We look forward to coming home and get settled this week and trying to start this thing over again, get rolling," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
Here are three key matchups the Seahawks need to win if they're going to "get rolling" against the Bears:
1. The Seahawks run D vs. Bears RB Matt Forte.
Not a lot has gone well for Chicago so far this season, but the Bears do still have one of the league's most versatile running backs, Matt Forte, who is a threat running the ball and as a receiver. Through two games, Forte has 202 rushing yards on 39 carries, as well as 69 receiving yards on nine catches. Dating back to 2008, his rookie season, Forte leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 11,702, a number that also trails only Walter Payton in franchise history.
With Bears quarterback Jimmy Clausen expected to make just his second start since the end of the 2010 season, it's safe to assume the Bears will look to establish a running game to take pressure off of a backup quarterback playing in one of the NFL's loudest stadiums. Stop Forte, and the Seahawks will be able to make things very difficult on the Bears offense.
"It's really important (to contain Forte)," linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "I think he's going to have even more of an impact on their offense with Cutler out. So we've got to make sure we know where he's at—they put him all over the place, in the slot, in the backfield, outside. He's a great player and we've got to be aware of where he's at."
2. The Seahawks vs. the fourth quarter.
It's not how you start, it's how you finish. That's something Pete Carroll has been preaching throughout his career, and for the most part his recent Seahawks teams have finished incredibly well, both when it comes to a particular season—the Seahawks won six in a row to close out the 2014 season—or individual games.
But to open the 2015 season, the Seahawks have an 0-2 record, losing two close games in which they held a lead at some point in the fourth quarter. Against Green Bay, the Seahawks used a big third quarter to overcome a slow start in the game, but the Packers outscored Seattle 11-0 in the fourth quarter. A week earlier, the Seahawks did outscore the Rams in the fourth quarter by an 18-7 margin, but those seven St. Louis points came on a 12-play, 84-yard drive that tied the score late in regulation.
Asked what has been the most disappointing thing to this 0-2 start, Carroll answered, "Not finishing. Not finishing when we had a chance to win. Whatever the circumstances that led up to the finish, let's finish the thing and get out of there, on both of them.
"It has always been the battle cry about finishing is that you do right longer than the other guys. We've made enough little errors, not in position here or there like we have been earlier in the game or like we need to be, and so it's really just the focus on the details as we finish the game out. This is an area we can specifically improve on, and it's very important and very crucial to us obviously in the last couple of weeks, we got to get something done there and we're after it."
The offense and special teams are definitely part of the equation here, but in particular, the focus on finishing applies to a usually-stingy Seahawks defense that has surrendered a pair of fourth-quarter leads this season.
"We definitely have to finish," defensive coordinator Kris Richard said. "There's no doubt about that. That's a huge theme, that's a huge focal point for our football team, and we didn't do that. We completely understand that it's up to us, it's up to us to go back and do things right longer. That's really what it comes down to."
3. Bennett vs. Bennett.
OK, so Michael Bennett and younger brother Martellus likely won't line up across from each other very often, but both are a big part of their teams' defense and offense, respectively. If Michael Bennett and the rest of Seattle's pass rush can harass Clausen, who is replacing an injured Jay Cutler, it's going to be very hard for the Bears to function at what should be a frenzied CenturyLink Field. Martellus Bennett, meanwhile, is Chicago's leading receiver with 103 yards and one touchdown on nine catches, and a good tight end can be a very helpful outlet for an inexperienced quarterback who might not have much time to throw.
Martellus Bennett could be an even bigger part of Chicago's offense with receiver Alshon Jeffery sidelined by a hamstring injury, and that's something that could be an issue for the Seahawks, who have allowed some big plays by tight ends through two games. In the opener, St. Louis tight end Jared Cook had a game-high 85 receiving yards on five catches, and Lance Kendricks added a 37-yard game-tying touchdown. Packers tight end Richard Rodgers didn't have as big of a game against Seattle, but did have a 9-yard touchdown catch.