Rally The Troops.

Boy, were the New York teams SLAUGHTERED yesterday. What a beating! For the Jets, it was all about what a blessing this season has been, considering they were predicting 4-6 wins going into the season. For the Giants, another disappointing ending to a VERY disappointing season. This team made the playoffs last year, they've got a Manning at quarterback, they've got a stud running back, and they're pretty talented at receiver. Yet, with all they've got, they still couldn't muster a winning season when it all ended.

Then, you take a look at a team like the Seahawks, whose talent pool has been spending as much time in the hospital as it has on the field, and you can't help but wonder what life would be like if we had as much health as the Giants. Or Cowboys for that matter. I still contend that this season started with the Seahawks playing on Autopilot, believing that no matter how hard they played, they'd win games because of WHO they are and what they did last season. After getting slapped in the face by the first three NFC North opponents they faced (going 1-2 against Chicago, Minnesota, and a surprise Week 1 game against Detroit we barely pulled off), not to mention losing to the likes of the 49ers, Cardinals, and 49ers again, the Seahawks had to deal with the fact that they aren't as good as they thought, and they surely aren't as good as they were last year.

Starting with the loss at home against San Diego and continuing with the stunning victory over Dallas, you're looking at a team that's FINALLY found its heart. Its passion for playing football and its desire for winning games. Sure, it only took 15 lackluster weeks (not counting preseason), but we're finally starting to play like we believe these games mean something. Mentally, we're playing like we did in the playoffs last year. If only we were as healthy as we were last year.

I go into this game at Chicago with as many, if not more reservations than I had about Dallas. First and most importantly, we're on the road. The Seahawks have proven time and time again they're not the same when they're away from Qwest Field. But, we've pulled out a few wins here and there to give me cause for diminished skepticism. The game at St. Louis was a back-and-forth battle with us pulling one out in the final seconds on a field goal. The game at Kansas City - while we lost and our defense got run over - saw us within a touchdown with the ball with 2 minutes to go in a game we had NO business being in. The game at Denver, where they threw the rookie in who made a few mistakes that obviously cost his team the win, saw us playing up to our potential on defense. Of course, no one's forgetting the embarassing nationally-televised game in Chicago where we lost 37-6. The Bears steamrolled us; we had no answers for their defensive pressure, and offensively they could do no wrong.

I'd like to think that game isn't lingering in our minds, but that's foolish. What worries me most about this game is the same thing that worried me about Dallas: if we don't get off to a fast start, our offense will wilt and our defense will eventually cave. What happened against Dallas? We got in deep twice in the first half and came away with two field goals - another inexplicable Mack Strong run on 3rd and long near the goalline. Dallas started off badly as well, but hung around and took a lead into halftime, to receive the ball on the kickoff at the start of the second half. Giving a team like Dallas - especially their much maligned defense that had taken the brunt of the criticism in the week leading up to the game - confidence by throwing interceptions and generally getting stopped on offense will only help in fuelling their team to victory. Somehow we kept them at bay in the second half, preventing their offense from scoring any more touchdowns, but if we play the same against Chicago - starting sluggishly - we'll get run out of the stadium like we did in Week 4.

Rex Grossman is about as streaky a guy as you can get in this league. He doesn't respond well to pressure. That's all fine and dandy, except - like with Dallas - we can't get much pressure on the quarterback when we're dropping linebackers to help in coverage. Did you see all the 5 Wide Receiver sets Dallas threw into their offense against us? That's what happens when you've got a loan officer playing nickel corner. You know who else has 5 competent receivers? The Bears. Like Dallas, they've got solid numbers 1 and 2 in Muhammad and Berrian, they've got a stud bigtime tight end in Desmond Clark, and they've got pass-catching young running backs in Jones and Benson. What's UNlike Dallas is the fact that Grossman isn't in his first year starting, and he's got more of a chip on his shoulder thanks to the bevy of poor throwing performances he's endured in the last seven or so weeks.

Thankfully, this time around, we're not the only team suffering from injuries. The Bears are missing their HUGE defensive tackle. This guy, in the previous game against us, single-handedly terrorized our offense in every imaginable way: he commanded constant double-teams, he stuffed our inept running game, AND he got two sacks! He's out. Done for the year; there's no chance for a miracle there. Also, their big-play safety is most likely out as well. Those are a couple of holes in their defense we'll HAVE to exploit if we're to win this game. Unlike in Week 4, we'll have a full-strength Shaun Alexander on the field, running as hard as he has in his career (that injury at the end of the Dallas game turned out to be nothing, he was back on the field after a play). Likewise, we'll have Jerramy Stevens back in our line up; he was out with an injury the first go around. I never thought I'd say this, but for us to win, Stevens HAS to play like he did against Dallas. No drops, and plenty of big catches over the middle.

Stevens is even more important because it seems like we can't go one game without losing more bodies. I had a pretty good hunch that D-Jack would play. He's a gamer, plain and simple. But, those fucking turf toes are wide receiver killers, plain and simple. If you can't put pressure on the front half of your foot, you can't accelerate and you can't cut. That's a double-whammy for a receiver who needs precision because he lacks the breakaway speed of a Marvin Harrison. Also likely out is D.J. Hackett, who did something in the game; probably reaggrivated the injury he sustained in Tampa. And we won't see Trufant available until next week at the earliest, if ever again this season.

The reason why we are where we are right now is because Dallas took us by the hand and walked us across the street to the victory. Forget the field goal at the end of the game. Take a look at all the drops. T.O. looked like he wasn't even paying attention on one throw that hit him in the bicep (to be fair, according to the announcers, apparently Romo had been overlooking a wide-open T.O. on previous plays, so maybe he just wasn't expecting the ball based on precedent); the running backs helped us out a couple times with drops, Witten had a crucial fumble, and of course Glenn had the biggest fumble of them all. Then, take into account Romo's own inaccuracies. He was bouncing passes left and right, overthrowing guys, and not even noticing wide open receivers altogether. We wouldn't be looking forward to a Sunday morning game at Soldier Field without the generocity of the Dallas Cowboys.

But, as a Seahawks fan, you can't count on the Bears repeating that performance. And yet, this is the only conceivable match-up I would have the slightest confidence in (which probably spells doom, because my intuition on these things tends to be ass-backwards). Because I'm seeing NO ONE going into New Orleans - their first home playoff game in HOW many years? Not to mention all the good mojo they've sustained all season. Not to mention their stud receivers and wildcard running backs. Not to mention Brees is playing out of his mind - NO ONE is going into New Orleans and beating them this week. Next week? Well, if I started talking about that, I'd be a damn fool. As far as I'm concerned, there's no Next Week.

There's only The Bears. There's only pain.