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It’s a simple formula.
Win at home. Compete on the road. Get hot in the playoffs.
Faltering in any of those three categories could spoil the Bears’ championship aspirations. Success starts at Soldier Field, where the Bears will play host to the Seattle Seahawks today.
“We should win every home game,” said Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, a veteran of 13 seasons and 181 games on the lakefront. “That’s our goal. That’s our mindset.”
Sorry, houseguests. Better luck elsewhere.
Today marks the Bears’ second-to-last home game of the regular season, with the team’s home finale scheduled for Dec. 16 against the Green Bay Packers. The Bears also have road games remaining against the Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals and Detroit Lions.
A 5-1 record at Soldier Field has helped the Bears to climb atop the NFC North entering the season’s final month. A win today would give the Bears six victories at Soldier Field for the first time since 2008 while keeping them in position to host at least one playoff game.
The Bears’ only setback at home this season came in the form of a 13-6 loss to the Houston Texans. Jay Cutler left the game after the first half because of a concussion, and the Bears managed only 249 total yards against one of the top defenses in the NFL.
Although Cutler has returned, others have exited.
Lance Louis, the Bears’ most consistent offensive lineman through 11 games, sustained a season-ending knee injury last week and has been replaced by Gabe Carimi at right guard. Meanwhile, Edwin Williams will start at left guard in place of injured starter Chris Spencer.
Devin Hester also is out this week because of a concussion, and fellow receiver Alshon Jeffery is doubtful to play because of a knee injury. Their absences will increase pressure on Earl Bennett and Eric Weems to emerge as secondary targets alongside Brandon Marshall.
Bears coach Lovie Smith knows that injuries happen during the course of a 16-game season. However, he said, home losses cannot happen.
That’s where the Seahawks come in.
Seattle scored 31 unanswered points in the second half last season to thump the Bears, 38-14, at Soldier Field. That followed another Seahawks’ victory at Soldier Field in 2010, when they relied on rushing touchdowns by Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett to win, 23-20.
“Seattle has beaten us two out of three times on our home field,” Smith said. “We just can’t allow that to continue. It’s as simple as that.
“They’re a good football team – run the football on the offensive side, play hard on the defensive side, have a great returner. Both of us are fighting for playoff position, so it should be a heck of a game.”
This season, the road has not been kind to the Seahawks. They are 5-0 at home but 1-5 on the road, including a three-point loss to the Miami Dolphins last week in which they surrendered 17 points in the fourth quarter.
The Bears are eager to contribute to the Seahawks' road woes while maintaining their lead in the NFC North. Now that the calendar has flipped to December, the stakes are high.
“The division’s tight right now,” Urlacher said. “So they do mean a little more than they did early. But you still have to win football games. That’s all it comes down to.”
Especially at home.