Bears’ ground game grinds up Seahawks

  • By Vaughn McClure Chicago Tribune
  • Monday, January 17, 2011 12:01am
  • Sports

CHICAGO — So much for throwing the ball 60 times.

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler implied last week he might sling it all over the field Sunday, depending on what the Seahawks’ defense gave him. Well, judging by the running lanes Cutler discovered on his own, the Bears were wise to keep it on the ground.

The Bears ran the ball 45 times for 176 yards (3.9 yards per carry), including eight runs for 43 yards by Cutler, in Sunday’s 35-24 divisional playoff win over the Seahawks.

Matt Forte pounded out 80 yards on 25 attempts in his first postseason appearance, while Chester Taylor added another 44 yards on 11 carries.

A big lead encouraged the Bears to stick with the run even more. But the 45 rushing attempts compared with 29 pass attempts was a much better ratio than Week 6’s, when Cutler attempted 39 passes and the Bears ran 14 times in a loss to Seattle.

“That was the plan going into this game,” Forte said about the running game. “Once we established that running game . . . it just works to have balance. And you see (the defense) wear down a bit when you start running the ball like that.”

The Bears had three rushing touchdowns in a game for the first time this season, two by Cutler and one by Taylor. And they picked up 11 of their 21 first downs by running the ball.

“I believe, in the playoffs, you have to have a running game in order to go far,” Taylor said. “Jay played great. The offensive line played great. And they opened up holes for Matt and I.

“(Offensive coordinator) Mike Martz sprinkled a lot in today. We had a bunch of different runs in there. And I believe we had success with those runs.”

A porous Seattle defense ranked 21st in the league against the run during the regular season. It will be a much different story next Sunday when the Packers come to Soldier Field.

Green Bay boasted the league’s fifth-best defense during the regular season and held the Falcons to 45 rushing yards on 14 carries in Saturday’s 48-21 divisional playoff win.

In the two regular-season meetings between the NFC North rivals, the Bears averaged 4.9 yards per carry — 1 yard better than their average throughout the season.

“We showed in the past we could run against them,” Taylor said. “I believe we’re just going to go at them this game and play Bear football.”

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