Briggs could be difference-maker against Seah
Briggs could be difference-maker against Seahawks
Bears linebacker missed regular-season loss with sprained ankle
There was a glaring omission from the Bears' defense the last time the Seahawks came to Soldier Field.
Back in Week 6 of the regular season, when the Bears stumbled through a 23-20 loss, No. 55 remained on the sideline nursing a severe left ankle sprain suffered the previous week at Carolina.
How big of a difference did Lance Briggs' absence make?
"We didn't win the football game," Brian Urlacher said, putting it simply.
And that was no disrespect to Brian Iwuh, who filled in admirably at weak-side linebacker while recording a team-leading 12 tackles. But playing without Briggs was like the defensive line going without Julius Peppers.
In fact, the Bears lost consecutive home games with Briggs hobbled. He started the next week against the Redskins but immediately realized his ankle was too sore to continue, and the Bears ended up losing 17-14.
"He's huge," Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck told the Seattle media.
"For us to sit back and say, 'Hey, we beat them at their place, we can do it again,' that would be a dangerous way to feel because Lance Briggs did not play in that game. He is big, a big-time difference-maker and a great football player. So as hard as this game is going to be, the fact that he's back takes it to another level."
Briggs downplayed the significance of missing the first meeting, with his thoughts focused on Sunday's playoff version of the Seahawks.
"I'm excited," he said. "This week, can't think of a better opponent to play."
With Pisa Tinoisamoa recovered from a Dec. 3 arthroscopic knee surgery, Urlacher fighting off a nagging sprained left wrist and Briggs over his ankle issues, the health of the starting linebackers shouldn't be a major concern. Their performance has been the least of the Bears' problems all season.
But the lack of a pass rush and breakdowns in the secondary — not to mention an ineffective offensive attack that allowed the Seahawks to dominate time of possession — allowed Seattle to capture its signature win of the regular season. The Bears failed to record a sack on Hasselbeck and allowed receiver Mike Williams to make 10 catches for 123 yards.
And now, the Seahawks might be better on offense, with running back Marshawn Lynch adjusted to his new team and tight end John Carlson discovered as a red-zone weapon in Saturday's 41-36 wild-card win over the Saints.
"They use them a ton," Briggs said of the Seahawks' tight ends, who combined for four receptions and two touchdowns — both by Carlson — against the Saints. "Fall-down plays, plays across the field … kind of deception. They threw a lot of hitches. They did a lot of the same things that we expected them to do.
"I feel confident. … We're going to do us."
Doing "us" defensively means a lot more when Briggs is part of the equation. It's no coincidence the six-time Pro Bowler had double-digit tackles in his team's biggest wins of the season: at home against Green Bay (13 tackles) and the Eagles (11). In five career playoff games, Briggs has 47 tackles, a sack and an interception.
"Lance is one of the finest linebackers in the league,'' Tinoisamoa said. ``When you don't have him, it hurts."